China's Electromagnetic Railgun Is Apparently Already Roaming The High Seas

Military Tech
In January 2018, photos showed the Type 072III-class landing ship Haiyang Shan with what appeared to be a railgun mounted on the bow docked at the Wuchang shipyard in China's central Hubei province

China's futuristic electromagnetic railgun may already be the most powerful cannon to ever roam the high seas — ahead of schedule.


In June, a U.S. intelligence assessment estimated that the Chinese military planned on fielding its own version of the electromagnetic railgun on naval vessels as early as 2025, far outstripping the Pentagon's truncated efforts to develop its own version of the much-hyped supergun. Now, new photos appear to show the railgun perched on the bow of its test ship at sea.

This is clearly the Haiyang Shan, the same Type 072III-class landing ship that was spotted in January 2018 docked at the Wuchang shipyard in China's central Hubei province, the largest of the People's Liberation Army Navy's inland shipyards and a major production hub for the country's conventional submarines.

The Chinese railgun was first developed in 2011 and tested in 2014, but a People's Liberation Army-run news outlet claimed in February that the Chinese navy had achieved a "breakthrough" during sea trials for the new railgun. Indeed, the June U.S. intelligence assessment suggests the supergun underwent trials even earlier than the PLA said, with initial tests underway as early as December 2017.

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research was still trying to figure out how to fire multi-shot salvos with its version of the railgun amid budget challenges and changing research and development priorities within the Pentagon. As of now, the U.S. Navy has yet to successfully mount the railgun aboard a naval platform, although the service is reportedly integrating the necessary infrastructure to power the system in its next class of large surface combatant warships.

But in terms of actually developing an operational shipboard prototype, things may be looking up for the Navy. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act included an additional $20 million for Innovative Naval Prototypes Advanced Technology Development (0603801N) explicitly to accelerate the development of a shipboard tactical demonstrator, well beyond the $15 million recommended by Rep. Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island and co-chair of the Congressional Directed Energy Caucus, in last year's NDAA to help the railgun make the transition from shore to ship.

When taken with the additional $20 million allocated in the 2019 NDAA for the Army's distinct railgun efforts, this suggests that the Pentagon hasn't totally given up hope of fielding the supergun despite existing obstacles. "With China and Russia challenging our technological superiority, we cannot just play defense," said Langevin of the defense budget back in May 2018. "Instead, we must promote and accelerate the adoption of game-changing technologies including hypersonics, directed energy, and applications of artificial intelligence."

This is a good sign for the future of the Navy's powerful supergun, true. But with the Haiyang Shan prowling the high seas — and tensions between the U.S and Chinese navies at a boiling point — this funding may simply be too little, too late.

SEE ALSO: Here's What We Know About China's Secretive Electromagnetic Railgun

WATCH NEXT:

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less

The second of three Zumwalt-class so-called stealth destroyers built at Bath Iron Works will be commissioned Saturday in its homeport of San Diego.

Read More Show Less
Veterans Day at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, 11 November, 2018. Photo: Erich Backes/U.S. Army

In typical veteran community fashion, hundreds of people showed up to two separate funerals last week for veterans who otherwise would have been buried alone.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban killed more than 100 members of the Afghan security forces inside a military compound in central Maidan Wardak province on Monday, a senior defense official said.

Read More Show Less
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on January 20 for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the U.S. military's geographic combatant commands.

Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.

Read More Show Less