brigade under the PLA 72nd Group Army. (Chinese People's Liberation Army/Peng Xianhua )
China claims to be developing "magnetized plasma artillery."
The Chinese military recently published a notice inviting researchers to devise a weapon that sounds like a sort of electromagnetic rail gun—which uses magnetism instead of gunpowder to fire shells—that several nations are developing. But actually deploying railguns has been hampered by the size of the weapon and especially the vast amount of electrical energy needed to propel a shell to speeds of greater than Mach 7. For example, despite years of research and vast sums of money, the U.S. Navy appears less than optimistic about fitting railguns on its warships.
But Chinese scientists believe that magnetized plasma artillery will be so light and energy-efficient that it can be mounted on tanks.
The U.S. Navy quietly test-fired 20 supersonic projectiles originally intended for the service's futuristic electromagnetic railgun from the conventional deck guns during an international military exercise at sea last summer, according to a new report from the U.S. Naval Institute, signaling a potentially significant boost in the Navy's surface warfare capabilities amid challenges from competitors like China.