Railgun in Chinese

Railgun in Chinese
Landing ship "Haiyanshan" pr. 72-III with an experimental rail gun, 2018. Photo Arstechnica.net

Since at least the 2000s, Chinese scientific and industrial organizations have been working on the topic of rail guns. In the tens, they built and tested several experimental artillery installations of this kind, including a sample suitable for installation on a mother ship. For obvious reasons, development and testing are carried out behind closed doors, but some of their details, which are of great interest, still appear in the open press.

New data

The other day, the Chinese English-language publication South China Morning Post drew attention to a recent publication in the scientific journal Transactions of China Electrotechnical Society authored by a team of employees of the Naval Engineering University. A team of scientists led by Lu Junyong reported on the tests of an experimental rail gun.

Due to the secrecy of the topic, all data on the events carried out is not reported. In particular, the timing of the described tests remained unknown. It is known that the article was sent to the journal in August 2023, and this indicates the approximate time of completion of the tests and subsequent work.

In their article, Chinese scientists described the approximate progress of the work, and also talked about the problems identified during experimental firing. In addition, the topic of solving these problems using the most modern technologies is touched upon. Reportedly, the development of a fundamentally new artillery complex ended in success. At the same time, they cannot clarify the future fate of the project.

During the test

According to a publication in the Transactions of China Electrotechnical Society, the tests used an experimental rail gun of an unnamed type and a guided munition. The latter was created specifically for the new weapon, taking into account its specifics and requirements. The article mentions some details, but the general appearance of the gun and projectile is not described. The tests were carried out with the assistance of the PLA Navy.

Rail artillery mount under cover. Photo Navyrecognition.com

Reportedly, the experimental weapon launched a guided projectile towards a conditional target. The gun accelerated the ammunition to a speed of more than 5M (over 1700 m/s) and sent it to a height of approx. 15 km. Then the projectile, using its aerodynamic surfaces and the resulting energy, made a gliding flight along a flat trajectory. The flight of the experimental ammunition lasted approx. 3 min. However, the range of the shot was not named.

This test showed the fundamental operability of the new artillery system and confirmed the ability of the rail gun to accelerate a projectile to hypersonic speed. However, the event was considered unsuccessful. The fact is that the projectile deviated from the original trajectory, did not rise to the required height and did not show the calculated range.

During previous tests in the wind tunnel and in computer simulations, such problems did not arise and the projectile conventionally flew at the calculated range. In this regard, specialists from the Naval Engineering University had to conduct additional research and find the causes of the negative phenomenon.

Speed ​​lock

In their project, Lu Junyong and colleagues used the principle of stabilizing a projectile by rotation, characteristic of modern artillery. At the theoretical level, it corresponded to the specifics of the rail gun and hypersonic flight speeds. In practice, however, unforeseen effects arose.

Analysis of telemetry data from the experimental projectile showed that during flight it maintained the high rotation speed obtained at launch. Moreover, all calculations were based on the fact that the rotation would slow down as it passed along the trajectory, as happens with “ordinary” projectiles. Maintaining the rotation speed influenced the orientation of the ammunition in space, the consumption of kinetic energy and, as a consequence, the flight path.

This effect was called rotational speed latching and we began to study it. Experiments in laboratory conditions have shown that this phenomenon is not frequent and occurs irregularly, and the available calculation methods do not allow it to be predicted. At the same time, it became clear that the real internal and external ballistics of the rail gun and its ammunition are more complex than the mathematical models used.

"Haiyanshan" goes to sea. Photo Navyrecognition.com

In the course of further work, it was possible to find the reason for fixing the rotation speed and the failure of the practical tests. Thus, when fired from a rail gun, colossal loads are applied to the projectile. High overloads during acceleration can lead to deformation of the external elements of the ammunition - rudders or stabilizers. This change in the shape of parts and the violation of symmetry affects the aerodynamics and flight parameters. In this case, the deterioration of aerodynamics is not enough to cause destructive loads to occur.

The search for solutions to the identified problem was carried out using computer modeling. The efficiency of this process has reportedly been enhanced through the use of artificial intelligence. As a result, a number of ideas were found to prevent rotation speed fixation or get rid of it in flight.

It is proposed to reconsider the design of the projectile itself. Its parts must be resistant to overloads. It is also possible to control the rotation speed using standard ammunition rudders. Another solution involves increasing the initial velocity of the projectile to optimal values ​​that prevent the speed from being fixed.

Unknown prospects

According to an article from the Transactions of China Electrotechnical Society, Chinese scientists encountered unexpected problems during the testing phase of the rail gun. In the course of further work, they were able to find several solutions at once. However, subsequent events have not yet made it into the open press.

It is unknown how the design of the gun and its ammunition has changed as a result of new research. It is also unclear which of the proposed solutions is of greater interest at the theoretical level. It is not specified whether the new solutions were tested in practice and, if so, which of them proved to be better.

However, even without this information an interesting picture emerges. A publication in a scientific journal shows that Chinese science and industry continue to work in the field of rail guns and are obtaining certain results. Prototypes are developed and built, tests of which make it possible to confirm calculations and/or identify new circumstances and problems. If necessary, new research is conducted to clarify existing data, correct errors, etc.

Experimental EMRG rail gun from BAE Systems, developed for the US Navy. Photo by US Department of Defense

China is developing new weapons and military equipment projects with all necessary secrecy. The existence of new samples usually becomes known quite late, when new developments are implemented in metal and go to testing. The railgun program is no exception.

At the moment, only one experimental rail gun of Chinese design is reliably known. An artillery mount with such a weapon was first noticed back in 2018, and at that time it was already installed on the carrier ship. Subsequently, tests of such a product were reported and positive results were obtained. At the same time, the technical details of the project and the characteristics of the gun were not reported.

Obviously, the construction of a pilot plant for the ship was preceded by the construction of similar stationary systems for laboratory and field testing. In addition, after 2018, new rail guns with certain features could be developed and assembled, but they have not yet been reported to the public.

It is unknown what kind of development is being discussed in the article from specialists from the Naval Engineering University. It is possible that this was a rail gun previously installed on the ship, but the use of other products cannot be ruled out. One way or another, the next series of tests helped to find new unknown problems and successfully solve them.

Application for leadership

The concept of a rail gun is particularly complex, and developing projects of this kind requires a developed scientific and technical base. In this regard, only a few countries that occupy leading positions in world science and technology have such projects. China entered this circle quite a long time ago, having managed to bring its developments to testing at land and sea test sites.

Until recently, the United States could boast of great success in this area. However, their projects, while showing some progress, encountered noticeable difficulties. Because of them, all work was stopped several years ago. American industry has left a promising direction, and now China rightfully claims global leadership in it.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. +6
    15 May 2024 07: 01
    Again the Chinese, Americans, as if we don’t have our own developments. We have been firing these railguns for 25-35 years at the Joffe Institute, just on laboratory installations (cold plasma laboratory). Some of the most accurate ballistic calculations in the world, the same notorious Americans ordered us calculations to deflect some asteroid from orbit (they paid grants). In the old days, we calculated all the ballistics for Korolev on powder accelerators, and then we switched to these notorious railguns. If the country needed it, they would have made bigger ones, but no one needs it. Science is financed on a residual basis... if it can be called financing at all. Consider for yourself, in 2008 the salary of a laboratory researcher there was only 500 rubles. Well, they all sat on 10-15 bets, all the same 5-7,5 thousand rubles. It wasn’t money, but the rest was the same notorious foreign grants and so on so as not to die of hunger (I don’t know how much they get now, I haven’t been there for a long time). And so the firing modes on railguns are interesting, sometimes we completely “evaporated” the bullets - it would fly half a meter out of the barrel and it would be gone. It’s generally easy to bend a barrel when firing; you can use a 2x2x2 mm bullet to distort a 20-30 mm thick barrel. It happened and the frames flew out of the laboratory after the shot, they overcharged the capacitors a little during testing...
  2. +3
    15 May 2024 07: 04
    The Communists of the PRC are becoming leaders in all areas of scientific and technological progress. There will also be a rail gun. And yet, only one drone manufacturer, DJI, produces 70% of the world's UAVs.
  3. +3
    15 May 2024 07: 31
    I read an article by the Americans, they recognized the rails as a dead-end path for the development of weapons with current technologies and very expensive. But as a plus, this gives impetus to new materials and the discovery of new technologies. Of course, maybe the Chinese will succeed in something serious, but for now it’s like this
    1. +3
      15 May 2024 08: 25
      rails as a dead-end path for the development of weapons with current technologies and very expensive
      I read that on the contrary, the cost is several times cheaper
      1. +3
        15 May 2024 14: 40
        Quote: Dutchman Michel
        I read that on the contrary, the cost is several times cheaper
        Or you can just see with your own eyes how many unnecessary powder ballistic stands we got rid of, these are tons of weapons-grade steel 38KhN3MFA (description of the stand with 14 min. 13 sec, typical models that were shot at 13.22). And then all this scrap metal was replaced with railguns. The smallest ones generally have a trunk length of 30 cm and are placed on a desk. Ballistics (any kind) still needs to be dealt with, and here railguns really help out.
        Here are the huge ballistic retro stands that were disposed of long ago, this is now history:

        PS the sound was erased, YouTube doesn’t like some proprietary audio codec, and the video itself was made for a child (the grandfather asked for it for his grandson), and not for adults, and therefore is crammed with unnecessary special effects, and now there is no other and never will be. ..
    2. +1
      15 May 2024 10: 10
      Quote: Vadim S
      rails are a dead-end path for the development of weapons with current technologies and very expensive.

      Perhaps the point is not in the development of technology and high cost, but in the inferiority of the very concept of a railgun as a weapon. It seems that the main advantage, in addition to the speed of the projectile, is the use of electricity to throw the charge, without intermediate operations for the manufacture of gunpowder, high-tech projectiles and barrels with locks. It is possible to power all weapons and onboard systems with one generator, saving space on the ship is obvious. But this overlooks the fact that the main advantage can also be a disadvantage - this electricity is produced by an installation, damage to which makes the ship a useless piece of iron. Eggs in one basket are not for fighting.
    3. 0
      15 May 2024 10: 16
      That’s right, the inability to maneuver a railgun projectile significantly limits its use as a missile defense system. The rate of fire also leaves much to be desired. Prospects for use either in space or in the future after eliminating the shortcomings.
  4. +1
    15 May 2024 10: 48
    The railgun is an extremely promising weapon... for space. All the advantages show themselves well there. There are many problems on earth. The higher the speed, the stronger the atmospheric resistance will be. This means that the potential for projectile flight speed will never be fully revealed. In addition, the commentators above have already described another problem, the fact that the cannon fires using the energy of a generator and not powder charges is also a disadvantage. Since it turns out that any damage or malfunction of the power plant leads to the gun stopping working. At the same time, modern deck artillery really requires development, as it found itself in a severe crisis after the massive appearance of anti-ship missiles on ships.
    It seems to me that the future belongs to increased caliber artillery. Let's allow unification with land guns of 150-155 mm caliber. Or, a partial return to 200+ mm caliber guns.
    With modern designs and materials science, these guns can be made lighter and stronger than the same ones in the first half of the twentieth century. Make the guns long-barreled (around 48-50 calibers). And most importantly, it will be easier to make long-range projectiles in this caliber. They can be made lighter with a larger expulsion charge, they can be made with a solid fuel accelerator, or even with a ramjet engine. A large caliber projectile is easier to make controllable and with its own accelerator/engine than smaller caliber projectiles. Thanks to this approach, artillery will be able to operate at distances of 60-100 km. (and who knows, maybe even further). This will partially reduce the number of targets that will be hit by missiles. This means more missiles will remain for more important purposes.
    So I think it will be sufficient to return guns of 220-230 mm caliber (I consider it pointless anymore) with the creation for them of long-range, high-precision projectiles with engines (solid propellant jet or ramjet)!!!
    But this is just my guess
    1. 0
      15 May 2024 14: 36
      Does it make sense to rely on serious projectiles with their own serious accelerator/engine (and not, as now, with a purely symbolic value and mass bottom generator)? What will be the advantage over the Kyrgyz Republic? IMHO, the main and only advantage is lost, because of which artillery still exists - price. All other parameters of such a hybrid system will be many times worse than those of pure cruise/ballistic missiles in the VPU. Simply because the mass of the gun mount will be much greater (the recoil of the gun and the VPU are not comparable), the parasitic mass of the missile-projectile structure will be much greater (highest overloads when fired).
      1. 0
        15 May 2024 14: 39
        That's what I answered! So that the Artillery could take on a little more possible targets. After all, the number of missiles on board is limited, and there are fewer shells than there can be. By improving the ability of artillery to hit targets, we will save more missiles for more important and distant targets.
        1. 0
          15 May 2024 15: 07
          The number of missile launchers is limited not entirely because the VPU cannot fit into the ship’s hull, but rather because each missile costs several million dollars, and therefore they are simply not produced in millions of quantities to be able to cram hundreds of pieces into each ship. In addition, it is extremely irrational for the price of a salvo of a large ship to exceed the cost of the ship itself. This will make him the No. 1 target for the enemy, for whom no means of destruction will be spared.
          Regarding the hybrid of missiles and projectiles, in more detail, to understand my arguments - if we increase the caliber to 200+ mm, attach a jet engine, control and guidance system to the projectile, we will get a price per shot even higher than for a rocket with the same parameters (because see post above). Despite the fact that the shells + charges will be, plus or minus, comparable in size to missile launchers of the same parameters.
          Moreover, a turret with an artillery mount and an artillery magazine will be very bulky and heavy (Google how much the main battery turrets of World War II ships weighed). And therefore it will have to be installed at the expense of other ship systems. For example, due to the VPU. Those. We reduce the number of missiles so that what? To get in addition to them a smaller number of missiles?
          Personally, I don’t see a single plus in such a hybrid, all minuses.
    2. 0
      15 May 2024 18: 51
      The railgun is an extremely promising weapon... for space. All the advantages show themselves well there.

      Unlikely. But on Earth they can do a lot of useful and commercially valuable things. Medicines should be separated, for example.
      1. 0
        15 May 2024 19: 42
        No, well, the railgun is like an accelerator and is really useful on the ground. But like a cannon... in the atmosphere many of its advantages are not revealed.
        For example, it can give a projectile a colossal initial speed equal to kilometers (and in the future tens of kilometers) per second. But here, on the ground, the projectile experiences air resistance. Because of this, it quickly loses its speed. In addition, it begins to heat up very much. In order to counteract such a destructive and interfering effect, you first have to play with the shape of the projectile so that there is less resistance (as a result, the shape of the projectile/blank then approaches a very long but narrow cone). But then this reduces the mass of both the blank itself and the mass of the potential explosive. Secondly, so that the projectile/blank does not burn up in the atmosphere by the time it arrives at the enemy ship, it is necessary to create projectiles from refractory alloys, which complicates production.
        There are no such problems in space. You fired a projectile, but it will not be able to deform much. Atoms in the vacuum of space, too far apart. In addition, the projectile will almost completely maintain its entire speed throughout the flight. So the shooting accuracy (especially at long distances) will be accurate, even without guided projectiles with adjustment
    3. 0
      16 May 2024 01: 50
      Deck artillery is now reduced to short-range air defense systems of 30 mm caliber. The era of deck-based cannon artillery in the broad sense has sunk into oblivion with the advent of rocket technology.
  5. +1
    15 May 2024 11: 19
    The Chinese hegemon is already using a railgun on its new aircraft carrier. I think that the next one will be on the Moon sending parcels to Earth.
  6. +2
    15 May 2024 14: 25
    Is a railgun projectile stabilized by rotation? Despite the fact that it is declared as manageable? What's the point of this? IMHO, this is some kind of simple Chinese disinformation.
  7. 0
    15 May 2024 15: 45
    Given the current level of technology, it is a useless toy. If it were possible to find a suitable superconducting material that operates at an acceptable temperature in order to minimize energy losses during a shot, and create a more or less compact and powerful power source and storage device, then a use could be found.
    As a weapon for direct fire, or limited to a flat trajectory, the railgun would look interesting. Against a blank accelerated to enormous speeds, any armor would be useless.
  8. 0
    16 May 2024 01: 40
    The development of a rail gun is unpromising in view of the more promising development of technology development for the production of laser weapons, since kinetic weapons can be considered a thing of the past. However, it is worth noting a general problem, namely the presence of compact energy storage elements and methods for quickly restoring charge, as well as constancy of the operating voltage without dips after the instantaneous release of energy in a pulse. As an option, the constant presence of the energy required for the pulse in the storage element while the energy source is operating simultaneously. The battery is used in order not to disrupt the operation of the source by the operation of the pulse itself. Let's say several batteries are charged at high speed and have a protection circuit due to the frequency of the pulse. By the way, the Chinese are modest and do not advertise their laser developments, but the rail gun is a kind of part of a scientific research.
    1. +1
      16 May 2024 22: 30
      Quote: oppozite28
      in view of the more promising development of technology development for the production of laser weapons, since kinetic weapons can be considered a thing of the past
      As long as there is an atmosphere on planet earth with its vagaries: snow, rain, fog, cloudiness, and even the morning haze, there will be no “war of weather forecasters” lol And so... it was the 10th year of the war, but the opponents were still unable to shoot at each other, everyone was accumulating energy that had nowhere to go. Combat weather forecasters constantly promised that perhaps tomorrow it would become clearer and then... and at that time the combat lasers were shaking over bumps and potholes, breaking particularly fragile flasks made of quartz and borosilicate glass, the service life of all these glass tubes was already 5 times overdue, adjustment specialists There was a catastrophic shortage of mirrors; the loss of government property (this time fragile) in the proven “army way” was not canceled. In the rear, workers could not be driven to factories for any salary - at the mere mention that they would have to process the alloys Invar and Kovar, everyone ran away because they are processed so well that you will be cutting one M8 thread before retirement (Invar is used for the manufacture of load-bearing structures of lasers thermal coefficient of linear expansion similar to glass otherwise the whole structure will burst).
      PS if you want to tinker with this fragile glass container:
      Even the stations are troublesome, but what can we say about working in the field.
      Z.Y. even if you shoot without an atmosphere, the Gaussian will be much more compact than a laser:
      IMHO: both the laser and the Gaussian gun at this point in time look too casuistic as weapons. Shooting down a target once on a training ground in ideal conditions is one thing, but everyday stability of results is something else entirely... so there will be no “war of weather forecasters.”
      1. +1
        16 May 2024 22: 36
        so there will be no “war of weather forecasters”.
        If only there were no frosts in May... But everything is as usual lol But the laser is more promising. But it’s even better to drink tea while listening to the sound of rain.good drinks