China’s navy has reportedly installed a prototype electromagnetic railgun on one of its warships, as suggested by the photos posted by a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) observer last week.
The images show that PLAN’s Haiyang Shan, a Type 072III-class landing ship with the pennant number 936, sitting in Wuchang Shipyard in Hubei province with a new, massive gun turret fitted on its bow. The mount appears to be fully enclosed and features a large diameter gun barrel. The other vessels in the class have a significantly smaller twin 37mm cannon in that position.
If photos are officially confirmed, this would be the first time any country has actually installed an electromagnetic gun system on a ship, even for test purposes.
However, Chinese military experts have identified China’s first home-grown 10,000-ton class missile destroyer, the Type 055, to be the best fit to be equipped with this powerful electromagnetic weapon, Global Times reports Monday.
Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert and TV commentator, was quoted as saying in the report that direction energy weapons (DEW), including electromagnetic and laser guns, would consume a huge amount of energy and the warships with integrated full electronic propulsion systems could meet such energy requirements.
The weapon is also larger and heavier than traditional ship guns, making it almost impossible to fit on current vessels without a complete modification other than the Type 055, Cheng Shuoren, a military analyst, told the Science and Technology Daily on Monday.
Railguns are an electromagnetic cannon that throws slugs at hypersonic speeds of up to 6,710mph.
According to Cheng, though U.S. is currently the most powerful country in electromagnetic weapons research, its declining research fund has provided China a chance to catch up.
“Though the test railgun is not the final version of the high-tech weapon, its size does fit the 055 destroyer, which would become an invincible vessel once equipped with electromagnetic weapons,” Cheng added.
The U.S. Navy demonstrated its railgun prototypes in 2006 and announced in 2016 that it would test electromagnetic railguns on the joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3), though no railgun has ever been seen on any US military vessels.