The electromagnetic railgun can fire projectiles at almost 7,500 km/h up to 200 km with great accuracy. This will change the way future wars will be fought.
China is all set to add some heft to its armoury, a super weapon that will drastically change the way future wars are fought.
A recent US media report says China has conducted a successful test of its latest naval weapon — an electromagnetic railgun — and will be able to field it in warfare by 2025.
The railgun uses electricity and magnetism instead of gunpowder for propulsion, resulting in speeds of three to six times the speed of sound (Mach 3-6), thus saving on propellant and maintenance costs.
The electromagnetic railgun is considered future of military combat, as it can fire projectiles at speeds of almost 7,500 km/h up to distances of 200 km with great accuracy.
ThePrint takes an exclusive look at Google Earth satellite imagery to understand the evolution of this gun in China.
The Xi’an Electronic Engineering Research Institute (206th Research Institute) and the China Electronic Technology Group Corporation (27th Research Institute) pooled in their resources to begin a programme for concerted research into railguns somewhere in the late 1980s.
The field trials of a prototype railgun started only in 2011, when a small firing range was observed in central China with what appeared to be an electromagnetic railgun.
The firing range has now developed into a very sophisticated field range with a variety of targets placed at very close range.
The targets are concrete plates of different sizes stacked one behind the other, as well as concrete slabs of different thickness. In one of the images, 12 concrete plates along with two possible steel plates can be seen to have been penetrated successfully.
The thickest concrete slab observed at the range is almost 10 metres.
The ship selected for onboard sea trials is the Type 72 II (NATO reporting name Yuting), pennant number 936 Haiyangshan.
The ship was constructed by Zhonghua shipyard (now Hudong Zhonghua shipyard), launched in December 1995 and commissioned in May 1996.
The design of the ship is based on the Type 72 (NATO reporting name Yukan) large landing ship developed by the China National Shipbuilding Company (CNSC), which was approved in 1983 by the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Equipment Department.
The ship was possibly selected since it has a very large floor area — almost 800 square metres — on the deck, a destroyer-shaped bow for higher speeds, and a large space below the deck which could be used for carrying additional batteries.
The satellite imagery showed this railgun being fitted on the ship in October 2017, and very hazy ground pictures of the first sea trials of this ship appeared in January 2018.
Since then, the ship has been observed on satellite imagery at Wuhan with the gun very often.
Experts believe this kind of gun will change the entire combat tactics of ship-to-ship combat firing, and obviously provide China with greater advantage in control of seas.
US experts liken a round of the railgun moving at hypersonic speeds to “an asteroid obliterating everything that comes in its path”.
New ground platforms
It is known that the electromagnetic railgun can be used on many different platforms.
Different sizes of guns have been observed in the last two years, indicating that tests and trials are being conducted on various scales for placing them on divergent platforms.
There are 14 armoured vehicles that have been identified at the firing range, possibly six tanks, five IFVs and three SP arty guns with different calibre guns.
This development indicates China is hastening to place railguns on ground platforms also.
With on-board guidance system and compatible radars, railguns can be used against aircraft and ballistic/cruise missiles effectively.
They will provide China a great strategic advantage in any future combat scenario.