San Diego’s General Atomics Reveals Railgun Technology, Developed Through Internal R&D

12/8/10Follow @bvbigelow

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destroy its target, leading some to describe the system as a kinetic weapon.

A GA spokeswoman says Blitzer works on the same principles as the Navy’s railgun, but GA developed its design for Naval warship self-defense on internal research and development funds. The company used a similar “build on spec” approach during the early 1990s to develop the highly successful Predator family of unmanned aircraft.

Railgun projectile in flight

Railgun projectile in flight

In its statement today, GA says the railgun projectiles, which are technically known as sabots, were repeatedly launched by the Blitzer system with acceleration levels exceeding 60,000 g. The sabot packages separated as designed and the sabots flew stable trajectories.

A railgun consists of two parallel rails that are highly conductive. One rail carries a positive electric current, the other a negative current. The sabot is mounted on a conductive device that bridges the two rails, completing the electric circuit. This allows the current to flow, which creates a magnetic field and a force that propels the sabot at tremendous velocity.

GA says its Blitzer technology offers a leap-ahead, multi-mission capability for both naval and land-based military use. A single system could provide a defensive capability against a number of advanced naval threats from both aircraft and surface vessels. It also could provide a standoff strike capability against land- and sea-based targets, with the promise of increased range at a muzzle velocity that’s more than twice that of conventional gun systems.

In a statement released by the company, GA Advanced Weapon Launcher Systems Director Tom Hurn says, “The tested systems performed flawlessly, and were consistent with performance expectations.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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