Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Navy's top officer just admitted the much-hyped electromagnetic railgun is a big mess
Less than a year after declaring the U.S. Navy "fully invested" in the service's much-hyped electromagnetic railgun, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson is apparently experiencing some buyer's remorse over the $500 million supergun's troubled development.
Appearing before an audience at the Atlantic Council on Thursday, Richardson characterized the decade-old weapons system — capable of accelerating a projectile to hypersonic speeds but stuck in research and development limbo without a ship-board tactical demonstrator — as "the case study that would say, 'This is how innovation maybe shouldn't happen.'"
"We've learned a lot [from the project] and the engineering of building something like that that can handle that much electromagnetic energy and not just explode is challenging," Richardson said, per Business Insider. "So, we're going to continue after this — we're going to install this thing, we're going to continue to develop it, test it."
"It's too great a weapon system, so it's going somewhere, hopefully," he added.
Translation: Whatever, man.
A prototype of the Navy's electromagnetic railgun(DoD photo)
That's quite an about face from the confidence Richardson exuded during a congressional hearing back in March 2018, months after Task & Purpose reported in December 2017 that the advanced system would likely never make it out of the R&D stage due to both the engineering challenges of actually mounting the thing on a Navy vessel and, more importantly, changing priorities within the Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office.
"[We are] fully invested in railgun; we continue to test it," Richardson assured lawmakers at the time, per Military.com. "We've demonstrated it at lower firing rates and ... shorter ranges. Now we have to do the engineering to, sort of, crank it up and get it at the designated firing rates, at the 80- to 100-mile range."
Task & Purpose had previously reported that SCO was shifting its focus towards the hypervelocity projectile (HVP), specialized shells originally developed as the primary ammunition for the railgun that are just as effective when fired from conventional artillery. Indeed, the Navy test fired the HVP from the USS Dewey's Mk 45 five-inch deck guns during the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in August of that year.
Richardson affirmed that shift in priorities on Thursday. "The high-velocity projectile is also usable in just about every gun we have. It can be out in the fleet very, very quickly independent of the railgun," he said. "So, this effort is breeding all sorts of advances. We just need to get the clock sped up with respect to the railgun."
A year ago, Richardson attempted to assure lawmakers that, as Military.com put it, "death of the program was greatly exaggerated."
So I'm just going to leave this here:
Suck it, jerks
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?