London: Scientists are developing what they call a supergun which could obliterate a target 160km away through sheer power using a bullet fired at eight times the
speed of sound.
The gun, which was tested recently at the Naval Surface Warfare Centre in Dahlgren, Virginia, has been described as the most powerful in the world.
A shot fired by the electromagnetic railgun generated 33 megajoules of force out of the barrel -- a world record for muzzle energy and more than three times the previous record.
A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a one-tonne car travelling at 160 kmph. The impact of the projectile hitting a target would be 33 times that force, the Daily Mail
According to the report, the bullet would take just minutes to fire over 160km and would hit with pinpoint accuracy with a velocity that`s impossible in conventional guns.
The hi-tech cannon fires a 20lb bullet or missile at a speed that is impossible in conventional guns. The makers claim it has pinpoint accuracy.
Instead of relying on an explosive propellant such as gunpowder, the railgun uses a giant surge of electrical energy to fire the bullet at speeds approaching Mach 8. The bullet
doesn`t explode on impact but obliterates whatever it hitsthrough sheer power.
Currently, US warships can only reach targets about 13 miles away, but the navy hopes the new gun will allow attacks from a much safer distance.
Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, chief of naval research, said the gun could be aimed at a magazine on an enemy ship and "let his explosives be your explosives".
But it will be at least another five years – possibly ten -- before the weapon is ready to be used on ships, scientists said.
They hoped that by 2025, the technology will almost double the power of the gun, enabling it to send a bullet 320 km in six minutes.
"People see these things in the video games, but this is real," said programme manager Roger Ellis. "This is what is very historical."
In the recent tests, the gun fired a bullet 5,500ft through the woods. The shell caused a small sonic boom before dropping harmlessly back to earth.
But it was fired at a very low trajectory and scientists calculate it could have travelled up to 160km if fired at optimum trajectory.
The main obstacle the navy is trying to overcome in its research is to build up sufficient charge to allow the gun to keep firing at supersonic speeds.