General Atomics Test Fires Railgun

A century-old concept may be the next big thing in military technology. General Atomics has developed and test fired a rail gun. The rail gun uses a 33 megajoule current impulse to accelerate a projectile at speeds up to Mach 8. Here’s a video of the test.

This high-tech concept has surprisingly old roots. The first electromagnetic gun, a “coilgun,” was invented by Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland on the eve of WWI. Birkeland was a pioneer in plasma physics, but observatories to view the aurora were an expensive proposition, so he undertook a career as an inventor. He invented a process to electrically create synthetic fertilizer and became a co-founder of Norsk Hydro, Norway’s first major multi-national corporation. ÆtherCzar previously discussed Birkeland in the context of reviewing Lucy Jago’s The Northern Lights: the true story of the man who unlocked the secrets of the aurora borealis. An electromagnetic gun similar to a rail gun was invented not long thereafter by André Louis Octave Fauchon-Villeplee (U.S. Patent 1,370,200 and U.S. Patent 1,421,435).

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