The slogan "Velocitas Eradico", taken by the American fleet for its research on electromagnetic rail guns, it is fully consistent with the ultimate goal. In a free translation from Latin, this expression means "Speed kills." Electromagnetic technologies are successfully developing in the maritime sphere, opening up prospects for offensive weapons and the work of aircraft carriers.
In a report written by Ronald O'Rourke in October 2016 for the Congressional Research Service, entitled “Lasers, rail guns and hypersonic projectiles: история questions and problems for the US Congress, "states the following:" Although the surface ships of the fleet have several means to protect themselves against anti-ship cruise missiles (CRP) and anti-ship ballistic missiles (FGP), some observers are concerned about the survivability of surface ships in possible combat with such opponents , such as China, which is armed with modern PKR and FGP ". The world's first and only (so far) medium-range FGP DF-21D (Dufeen-21) developed by the China Academy of Mechanics and Electronics China Changfeng was actively discussed in the navy of the world; This rocket was shown in Beijing in September 2015, at the parade marking the end of World War II. Meanwhile, the report notes that the Russian fleet continues to deploy a family of anti-ship and ground cruise missiles 3M-54 Caliber with satellite inertial / radar guidance developed by the Novator Design Bureau.
While some countries, such as China and Russia, continue to equip their ships with powerful weapons, the US fleet, along with other Western fleets, is increasingly showing concern about the survivability of their surface combatant ships. A reduction in personnel forces fleets around the world increasingly turn to promising technologies. For example, according to globalsecurity.org, the number of active military personnel in the US military is expected to decrease by 2017 thousand by the end of the 200 year, to 1,28 million people. In this context, in the defense sphere, there is a rapid development of electromagnetic technologies as a promising solution to complex problems, which are largely related to the arming of potential adversaries and reduction of personnel. Compared with the current traditional systems, these technologies, from aircraft carrier catapults to rail guns (railguns), will be more efficient from an economic point of view and will reduce the number of personnel.
Electricity and magnetism
Electromagnetic energy is a combination of electric and magnetic fields. According to the definition published on the World Health Organization website: “Electric fields are created due to the difference in voltage, the higher the voltage, the stronger the resulting field will be. Magnetic fields arise when charged particles move: the stronger the current, the stronger the magnetic field. "
Promising launch system for deck aircraft aviation EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) is being developed by General Dynamics to replace steam catapults, which have a number of significant drawbacks, including the large mass, size and need to store a large amount of water on the ship, which cannot be taken overboard due to the aggressive chemical properties of sea water. The new system consists of two parallel guides installed inside the aircraft carrier’s take-off deck, composed of many elements with induction coils, as well as a carriage, which is mounted on the front wheel of the aircraft. Megan Elke, a spokeswoman for General Atomics (GA), explained: “The sequential excitation of the guiding elements creates a magnetic wave that moves along the guides and forces the carriage, and therefore the airplane itself along the entire length of the guides, at the speed necessary for successful take-off from the deck. This process requires several megawatts of electricity. ”
The figure shows how much underdeck space is occupied by the equipment of the EMALS system on board the aircraft carrier
The principle of operation of the electromagnetic accelerator of masses, it is the railgun, it is the rail gun, similar to the principle of the electromagnetic catapult EMALS. The generated several megawatts of energy are directed along two rail-guides (just like the two guides of the EMALS system) to create a magnetic field. As John Finkenour, the head of new technologies at Raytheon, explained: “After the system has accumulated a certain amount of energy, capacitors (they store the generated electric charge) send an electrical impulse along two rails (one of them is negatively charged, and the second is positive), creating an electromagnetic field". Under the influence of this field, the projectile begins to move in the trunk with two long rails at very high speed. Open sources claim that speeds can reach 7 Mach numbers (on the order of 8600 km / h). The projectile weighs approximately 11 kg and does not have a combat charge. The shell of the projectile, filled with striking tungsten elements, is enclosed in an aluminum alloy casing, which is dropped after the projectile leaves the barrel. The high speed of the projectile meeting with the target in combination with the striking elements causes significant destruction without any explosives.
The figure shows two advantages of the EMALS system: it is easily installed on aircraft carriers of various sizes and launches airplanes of different take-off weight.
Steam catapults, which the EMALS system should change, have been on aircraft carriers in many countries since the 50-s. For a long time, they were considered the most efficient technology, which is capable, for example, of accelerating an aircraft weighing 27300 kg to a speed of 240 km / h from a deck of length 300 meters. To do this work, a catapult needs approximately 615 kg of steam for each input plus hydraulic equipment, water to stop the catapult, as well as pumps, electric motors and control systems. In other words, the traditional steam catapult, although it does its job perfectly well, is a very large and heavy equipment that requires a significant amount of maintenance. In addition, the sudden impact during take-off, as it turned out, shorten the life of aircraft-based aircraft carriers. Steam catapults also have limitations on the types of aircraft they can launch; The situation is especially complicated by the fact that the mass of aircraft is constantly increasing and it may soon happen that the modernization of deck aircraft will become impossible. For example, according to the data provided by the fleet, the Boeing F / A-18E / F Super Hornet carrier-based fighter has a maximum take-off weight of 30 tons, while the previous Douglas A-4F Skyhawk fighter, which was finally removed from the fleet in the middle of the 80-s , had a take-off weight of 11,2 tons.
According to Elke: “Airplanes are now becoming heavier, faster and more functional, they need an efficient launch system with greater efficiency and more flexibility in order to have different launch speeds for taking off from the deck of an airplane of every type.” As stated by General Atomics, in comparison with steam catapults EMALS system will be 30 percent more efficient, will require less volume and maintenance compared to its predecessors, which will simplify its installation on different ships with different configurations of catapults. For example, the Nimitz class aircraft carriers have four steam catapults, while the only French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has only two catapults. In addition, different EMALS accelerations, adjusted for the take-off mass of a manned or unmanned aircraft of each type, will contribute to an increase in the service life of aircraft bodies. “Due to the smaller installation volume, better efficiency and flexibility, reduced maintenance and number of personnel, EMALS significantly increases opportunities and reduces costs, which will contribute to the further development of the fleet,” Elke added.
According to Alexander Chang from Avascent consulting company, railguns also have a number of advantages. "And the main thing, of course, is that they can fire projectiles at high speed on the order of seven Mach numbers without using any explosives." Since the source of energy of the railgun is the general power supply system of the entire ship, the risks associated with the transportation of explosives or propellants are excluded. High initial speeds of the railgun, approximately twice the initial speeds of traditional ship guns, lead to a reduction in the time of defeat and allow the ship to react almost simultaneously to many threats. This is due to the fact that with each new projectile there is no need to charge combat or propelling charges. Elke noted that “due to combat and missile charges, the supply is simplified, the cost of a single shot and logistic load are reduced, while the relatively small size of the railgun increases the capacity of the magazine ... It also has a much larger range than other weapons ( for example, with surface-to-air missiles used to protect surface ships). ” The report to the Congress notes that, at the moment, two prototype rail guns built by Raytheon and General Atomics for the US Navy “can fire projectiles at energy levels from 20 to 32 megajoules, which is enough for the projectile to fly to 92-185 km ". If to compare, according to open sources, the 76-mm ship cannon from GTR Melara / Leonardo has an initial speed of about 2,6 Mach (3294 km / h), reaching a maximum range of 40 km. Finkenour said that “the railgun can be used for fire support of surface ships when it is necessary to send a projectile hundreds of nautical miles, or it can be used for short-range shelling and missile defense.”
Hypersonic projectile promises a significant increase in range due to the highly efficient aerodynamic design. Currently, the projectile is being tested.
The technology used in the EMALS system is already at the stage of introduction into production. The US fleet, which chose this General Atomics development catapult for taking off aircraft from new Ford class aircraft carriers, conducted the first loading tests in November 2016 of the year. On the first ship of this class, “Gerald R. Ford,” ballast weights that mimic a typical aircraft were catapulted into the sea (video below). Used 15 carts shells of different weights. The first launches failed, but the following were considered successful. For example, a cart weighing about 6800 kg was accelerated to a speed of almost 260 km / h, and a cart smaller than 3600 kg was dispersed to 333 km / h. According to Elke, the system is also being manufactured and installed on the aircraft carrier John Kennedy, which is scheduled to be transferred to the fleet in 2020 year. GA was also selected as a single EMALS contractor for the USS Enterprise, the construction of which is scheduled to begin in the 2018 year. Elke noted that "we also see the interest of other states in our electromagnetic take-off and landing systems, as they want to have in their fleets new technologies and deck aircraft." Nevertheless, it is worth noting that while EMALS technology is ready for production, the system itself cannot be installed on the overwhelming majority of aircraft carriers in service because of the amount of energy that is necessary for its operation.
In addition to the above rail gun has a number of serious drawbacks. According to Finkenaura, “one of the problems of applying electromagnetic technology in the defense sphere is maintaining the barrel in working condition and reducing barrel wear after each launch of the projectile.” Indeed, the speed with which the projectile leaves the barrel causes such wear and tear that in the initial tests the barrel had to be completely restored after each shot. "The power of the impulse entails the problem of releasing a huge amount of energy and coordinating the joint work of the modules of pulse power for one shot." All of these modules must release the accumulated electricity at the right moment in order to create the necessary magnetic field strength and push the projectile out of the barrel. Finally, the amount of energy needed to accelerate the projectile to such speeds entails the problem of packing the necessary gun components into sufficiently small physical dimensions so that it can be installed on surface ships of different classes. Due to these reasons, according to Finkenour, small rail cannons may well enter service in the next five years, while a railgun with a full 32 megajoule will likely be installed on a ship in the next 10 years.
The company BAE Systems is also involved in the rail guns business by developing its own project as part of the US fleet program.
According to Chang, “recently, the US Navy has paid less attention to improving the technology of the rail gun and turned their attention to the capabilities of the HVP (Hyper Velocity Projectile) hypersonic projectile, which can easily fit existing traditional guns.” The HVP white paper, published in September by the US Navy Research and Development Authority, describes it as a “universal guided projectile with low aerodynamic drag, capable of performing various tasks from different gun systems”, which include, in addition to the rail gun, the standard systems of the US Navy: 2012-mm MK.127 ship gun and 45-mm Advanced Gun System advanced artillery system developed by BAE Systems. According to the company BAE Systems, the “special ingredient” in the HVP design is its ultra-low aerodynamic drag, which eliminates the need for a rocket engine, which is widely used in conventional ammunition to increase their range.
Prototype AGS installation on site
Ship gunnery Mk.45 Mod 4
According to the report of the CRS research service, when firing from an Mk.45 installation, this projectile can reach only half (Mach’s 3 or about 3704,4 km / h) from the speed that it could have achieved when firing a rail gun, but , still twice the speed of an ordinary projectile fired from the Mk.Xnumx gun. As stated in the press release of the US Navy, “HVP in combination with the Mk.45 will provide various tasks, including fire support of surface ships, it will expand the capabilities of the fleet in the fight against air and surface threats, in addition, will allow to fight not only with the current , but also with emerging threats. ”
According to Chang, the decision of the Research Department of the Ministry of Defense to invest significant funds in the development of HVP is aimed at solving the problem of re-equipping ships for installing a rail gun on them. Thus, the American fleet will be able to use HVP hypersonic projectile on its Ticonderoga class cruisers and destroyers of the Arly Burk class, which are equipped with two guns of the Mk.45. So far, the rail gun is not technologically ready to be installed on new Zamvolt class destroyers, the first of which was accepted into the US Navy in October 2016. But, at least after the development is completed, the HVP projectile will be able to get into the ammunition of their Advanced Gun System 155-mm artillery units. Judging by the press release, the fleet in January conducted firing tests of an HVP projectile from an army howitzer. The US Navy does not provide information on when the HVP can enter service with their warships.
Rail Blitzer gun from General Atomics is being tested. The possibility of installing such a gun on vehicles was demonstrated.
In 2013, BAE Systems received a contract worth 34,5 million dollars from the Navy Research Department to develop a rail cannon for the second phase of the prototype gun construction program. At the first stage, engineers from the Naval Arms Development Center of the Navy successfully conducted firing from the prototype EM Railgun of Raytheon, reaching the 33 energy level of megajoules. According to BAE Systems, at the second stage, the company intends to switch from single firing to firing bursts and develop an automatic loader system, as well as a thermal control system for cooling the gun after each shot. In 2013, BAE Systems also received a contract from this management to develop and demonstrate HVP.
General Atomics began developing a rail gun technology back in 1983, as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative program of President Ronald Reagan. This initiative was aimed at "developing a space-based missile defense program that could protect the country from a large-scale nuclear attack." The initiative lost its relevance after the end of the Cold War and was quickly abandoned, including because of its exorbitant cost. Technical problems then were more than enough and the exception were not railguns. The first version of the rail gun required such a quantity of energy for the operation of the gun that it could only be placed in a large hangar and therefore, according to Elke, “over the past eight years we have reduced the size of electronics and semiconductors and created ultra-large capacitors”.
Today, General Atomics has already developed a 30 megajoule rail cannon and a medium-range Blitzer rail cannon with 10 megajoule energy. Meanwhile, the capacitor, which simplifies the process of storing energy for firing from ground-throwing guns on ground vehicles, was successfully demonstrated in July of the 2016 year at an open range. Elke added in this regard: “We also successfully demonstrated the transportability of the Blitzer gun. We dismantled the gun and transported it from the Dagway test range to the Fort Sill test range and reassembled there for a series of successful shooting tests during 2016 army maneuvers of the year. ”
Raytheon is also active in the development of rail gun technology and an innovative pulsed energy network. Finkenour explained: “The network consists of a set of pulsed power containers with a length of 6,1 m and a height of 2,6 meter, which houses dozens of small blocks called pulse power modules. The work of these modules is to accumulate the required energy in a few seconds and release it in an instant. " If we take the required number of modules and connect them together, they can give the required power for the railgun.
In a speech delivered in Brussels in April 2016, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work noted that “both Russia and China daily improve the abilities of their special operations forces to work at sea, on land and in the air. They are becoming quite strong in cyberspace, electronic countermeasures and in space. " The threats that these developments have caused the United States and NATO countries to develop the so-called common "Third Counterweight Strategy" TOI (Third Offset Initiative). As the then Minister of Defense Hagel stated in 2014, the aim of TOI is to level or superiority over the military capabilities of China and Russia, developed through the introduction of the latest technologies. In this context, rail cannons, and hypersonic projectiles in particular, represent key opportunities for countering or neutralizing the potential threats posed by the weapons of China and Russia, which was mentioned in the introductory part of the article.
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