Images that surfaced on social media last week that appeared to show an electromagnetic rail gun mounted on the Chinese Type 072II Yuting-class tank landing ship, “Haiyang Shan.” Thus far, reports are more speculation than fact, with China remaining tight-lipped about the purposes of the weapon or how mature the technology truly may be. However, many experts contend that despite beating the United States to mounting one of these weapons on a warship, China still faces a laundry list of technological hurdles before being able to introduce rail gun technology to warfare.
The United States, likewise, has not yet developed an electromagnetic rail gun that it feels is reliable and efficient enough for service aboard an operational warship, but that didn’t stop the U.S. from raining on the Chinese parade a bit by unveiling its own “hypervelocity” projectile test. This test actually took place last summer during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018 international exercises that included naval participants from a number of friendly nations. Although the Navy has confirmed that the test and results are not classified, the Department of Defense has been none-the-less tight-lipped about the details.
What we do know for certain is that the test was conducted using the Mk 45 5-inch deck gun aboard the USS Dewey (DDG-105). The hypervelocity projectiles, referred to as HVPs, that were fired from the gun were originally intended for use in electromagnetic rail guns themselves, but thanks to some slight modifications, the test proved that the Navy’s existing ship-board guns could be converted to fire the kinetic projectiles at speeds approaching Mach 3. They also boast a significant increase in range over traditional deck-gun munitions, at 40 or more miles over the existing munition’s 13-mile range. At a fire-rate of 20 rounds per minute, that translates into a hell of a lot of fast-moving firepower.