The US Office of Naval Research has been working on electromagnetic railgun technology since the early 2000’s, and there have been reports of a railgun, referred to as BAE, spewing fire as it launched a projectile 5,600 miles per hour. But until now, the public has never seen the gun in action.
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Well, now the government has released a test video of the BAE railgun being fired, and it’s ever so satisfying. In the video, the prototype railgun hurled an inanimate object at speeds that close in on 6,000 miles per hour.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the video shows the railgun belching out a trail of fire, which closely resembles a dragon. The prototype, which was built by BAE Systems, has many loving the advanced technology but confused as to the dynamics of the system.
I’ll do my best to break it down in layman terms as much as possible. The million dollar question – and one of the main reasons you clicked on this article – was to understand why the railgun creates that awesome rocket-like explosion when fired.
Well, to our surprise, the explosion in the video isn’t an explosion at all. Instead, the stylistic explosion that could easily have been in a rejected Micheal Bay film is actually molten aluminum.
The railgun, when shot for the first time, self-lubricates itself with aluminum. The self-lubrication comes from the friction melting the sides of the armature. The explosion, or lack thereof, is just the lubricated residue from the previous fires.
The railgun is reportedly comprised primarily of tungsten metal, which is the only metal that can withstand the heat that the railgun produces. The projectile being fired in the video is also tungsten. If not, the other metals would melt.
As the device is still very much in its prototype stage, there are elements the engineers are still working on, and this so-called explosion may not happen at all once engineers complete their design. But as impressive as that “explosion” is, let’s hope it remains a part of every firing. It’s just too cool.