The U.S. Navy’s electromagnetic railgun is essentially a superweapon—a cannon that uses no chemical propellants to fire a tungsten projectile at speeds up to Mach 7 (5,800 mph) over distances of 100 nautical miles. But there’s just one problem—it takes an insane amount of power to fire it.

Although the weapon, which uses an electromagnetic field to fire a projectile, has been successfully tested on land, the Navy won’t be mounting an electromagnetic railgun on a ship until the third Zumwalt-class destroyer is complete. Only the new Zumwalt ships can support the gargantuan 25 megawatts of power required to fire the railgun, but the projectile that the gun fires, specifically designed for hypersonic (above Mach 5) speeds, could be fired from other weapons.

The tungsten “hypervelocity projectile” (HVP) is being tested in the Army’s 105mm Howitzers, and test fires from the Navy’s deck-mounted 5-inch guns are expected as well, according to a report from Scout Warrior. The HVP wouldn’t leave a conventional barrel at Mach 7 like it does the railgun, but with some modifications, conventional cannons should be able to fire it above Mach 3—still faster than any projectile in service—and possibly up to hypersonic speeds. The bullet designed to stand up to an electromagnetic railgun could allow the military to safely increase the firing speed of other weapons.

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Image courtesy of US Navy