China may have successfully developed a new weapon which the US Navy has dropped from its financial budget in 2017. Photos posted on social media suggested that China was able to install and mount a full-scale hypersonic railgun on a warship. The thing is, US government thought such weapon would never see combat in the future.
Dafeng Cao, a Twitter user who amassed followers for his posts on Chinese military developments, posted a series of pictures that showed a ship-mounted railgun. The ship carried a banner that reads: “Providing first-class weapons and equipment for building the best navy in the world.”
So far, the clearest photo of the railgun. pic.twitter.com/owrdV0JpCt
— dafeng cao (@xinfengcao) February 1, 2018
The banner said, “Provide the first-class naval weapon & equipment for building the first-class navy in the world.” That’s pretty assertive and ambitious. pic.twitter.com/4L9cuh1tEX
— dafeng cao (@xinfengcao) February 2, 2018
The purported railgun was first reported by Chris Cavas, a former naval warfare correspondent at Defense News.
Is the #Chinese #Navy about to test a #railgun at sea? New views of 22-yo Type 072 III landing ship HAIYANGSHAN 936 with what might be a railgun forward. Power modules seem to be placed on deck just aft of the gun. Props to @xinfengcao et al for these. pic.twitter.com/unTUGZTCgP
— Chris Cavas (@CavasShips) January 31, 2018
Popular Science described railguns as a weapon with the “speed and the efficiency of cannons but with the range of missiles.” As for the photographed Chinese railgun, the publication estimated that it measures 26-33 feet in length and 12-20 inches in diameter which is 2-3 times larger than the usual cannons. With this immense length and obvious weight, it can be said that it carries magnetic rails to propel shells to hypersonic speeds. Furthermore, its barrel length closely resembles the megajoule railgun tested by the US Navy.
In December 2017, citing unnamed lawmakers and military officials, Task & Purpose reported that the US Navy has stopped the development of its own railgun, a weapon that could have the speeds of up to 4,500 mph or mach 6 and can target up to 100 nautical miles away. After spending more than $500 million in the project, officials at the Department of Defense realized that it may not be used in a combat in the future so there is no point in spending more for such weapon.
“Promising technologies fall into the ‘valley of death’ all the time. Testing is great, but unless you want to put money into transitioning that tech into an actual weapons system then what the hell are you doing? We’re afraid to take a risk and try to get things moving.” – unnamed source told Task & Purpose.
This was unfortunate, if an analysis by Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute is anything to go by. In an interview with New Scientist, he explained that there is currently no weapon that could counter a railgun except another railgun. So, if China has really successfully developed one, that places the country way ahead over the US.
“There isn’t really a known defense mechanism against a railgun shot at high Mach numbers. If they (China) can get it integrated as a major component into their future fleet arsenal, it will give them a really significant edge over the U.S. Navy.” – Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute