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Powerful sci-fi style railgun to be tested by US Navy in 2016

The United States Navy will be testing a new kind of weapon in 2016. Called a railgun, it comes right out of science fiction and the US hopes that it can be the first to deploy it in the field.

A railgun operates via the application of force from electromagnetism on a point of charge. A sliding metal conductor accelerates down a pair of magnetised rails, firing projectiles at great speed. The force when you push two same-type magnets together multiplied by millions effectively fires a gun without the explosion

The US Navy plans to outfit a 64 megajoule cannon to each of its warships by 2020-2025. The new device will use tungsten slugs (ballistic projectiles) that will be fired at speeds of roughly 13,000mph.

Related: MOD buy million-pound roboman to test equipment

At the rate of fire and the speed, it is estimated that the new cannon will be able hit a target five metres wide roughly 200 miles away ten times a minute. For comparison, the largest naval gun ever fired in WW2 could only fire accurately up to 26 miles.

Due to the lack of gunpowder in the firing of the railgun, large caches of explosives would no longer need to be stored in ships, reducing the risk of massive explosions when under fire.

A UK based team from BAE Systems is being tasked with shrinking the new cannons down to a size in line with traditional naval artillery.

"The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy," said rear admiral Bryant Fuller, the U.S. Navy's chief engineer, according to Daily Tech. "This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide-range of threats at a relatively low cost."