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Military Policy & Weapons/"Are rail guns a practical form of weaponry?"


My name is Vivek and I am a student from Nazareth Catholic College currently studying in Year 12. As part of my Physics Issues Investigation, I am investigating whether “Rail Guns are a practical form of weaponry?” I was wondering whether you could provide me with some insight into your personal thoughts on the use of Rail Guns and whether their disadvantages outweigh their advantages. Some primary research conducted showed that rail guns can be fired at much higher speeds and can travel much further. However rail guns also need a lot of power to be fired, therefore becoming more expensive to launch. I also read in an article that rail guns can potentially create enough energy to explode itself due to the magnetic fields produced. What is your personal opinion on this and do you believe rail guns could become more of a common type of weaponry in the future? I am aware that the US Navy is working on prototypes of the rail gun, are you aware of any other developments into rail guns?
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer this,

In my opinion, rail guns are no longer a significant weapon. (Rail Guns were essentially battleship guns with 14 inch or greater bore diameter, like Big Bertha). These guns were too heavy to move on typical artillery carriages or on roads. In support of that answer I note the following:
1.  Our navy no longer uses battleship guns. The largest gun on a US Navy ship is a five inch gun. Guided missiles, stealth bombers, fighter bombers, drones and precision bombs have replaced the need for these big guns. The same would be true on land.
2. Enemy rail lines are already accurately known and plotted by GPS coordinates. The firing of a Rail Gun would immediately be countered precisely by one of the aforementioned weapon systems neutralizing the Big Gun. In the days of Big Bertha, they had to wait for a shell to penetrate two walls of a building and fail to detonate so that they could plot a back azimuth and locate the gun.
3. Iraq commissioned a famous Canadian artillery engineer to design a long range artillery shell that could reach Israel. The theory behind the effort was that such a cannon could fire far more often, be more accurate and fly faster than SCUD missiles. I saw the prototype. It tapered like a pencil point for its entire length so that it needed a second rotating band nearer its nose as well as the rotating band on its tail, to engage the rifling. Otherwise it would come out the muzzle unstable. The Engineer was assassinated before the project was completed. Though this was not a rail gun, it was the last attempt to re-engineer a major artillery piece for modern conflicts.  

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Richard Albright


Questions on chemical weapons, explosive ordnance, environmental cleanup of military bases and ranges.


Military weapons and antique firearms expert. Remedial Project Manager for 7 years cleaning up world war one's second largest chemical weapons manufacturing site. 1st Lt. USAR Vietnam Era.

ASTSWMO Association of State Territory Solid Waste Management Officials ITRC Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council

Author: Cleanup of Chemical and Explosive Ordnance. Published by Elsevier. Made Science and Technology Best Seller List Geophyisical Prove-Outs for Munitions Response Projects 2004, by Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (64 pages, contributing author). Small Arms Range Technology (SMART II) 2005, by Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (70 pages, contributing author). Technical Guidance-Perchlorate 2005, by Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (70 pages, contributing author).

4 degrees, BA, JD, MS, PhD.

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Cafritz Award 2001 $7500 prize. 3 performance awards signed by current Supreme Court Justice. 1995-1996, Strathmore’s Who’s Who Registry of Business Leaders. 1998-1999, Marquis Who’s Who in Science and Engineering Printed Media: Washingtonian Magazine December 2000, 12 page story two pictures; 2001, July 28, 2001, The Washington Post Picture B-1; Numerous other stories in the Washington Post; Washington Times; The Ohio News Herald; The Kansas City Star; The Northwest Current; Electronic Media: HTB-TV Russia, 3 minutes prime time; CNN-TV; CBC Radio Canada; Subject of Fox 5 story by Melanie Alnwich winning a national Emmy; and, recognition in numerous other news media.

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