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Japan to develop electromagnetic cannon to intercept missiles

The Japanese government wants to acquire a railgun capable of pulverizing hypersonic missiles in mid-flight.

According to information from Nikkei Asia spotted by the Defense Post, the Japanese government has recently released the equivalent of around 50 million euros to develop a weapon straight out of a science fiction film: a electric cannon, better known as railgun.

Contrary to what the name might suggest, an electric cannon does not fire an electric charge in the form of a projectile – a concept that wreaks havoc in fiction, which doesn’t really make sense from a physical point of view. . Instead, it uses electromagnetic force to accelerate metal projectiles at breathtaking speed.

A formidable electromagnetic catapult

Fans of the Star Wars, Mass Effect, Fallout or Warhammer 40k series have already had the opportunity to use this weapon to sow destruction on fictional battlefields. But that’s not the goal of the Japanese government at all; the latter sees it rather as a formidable ballistic interception system, capable of destroying latest generation missiles before they even approach their target.

The principle of the railgun. © DrBob – WikiCommons

To achieve this, this weapon passes a metallic projectile between a succession of very powerful and expertly arranged magnets. The concept is based on a difference of electric potential generated between the two rails, on either side of the barrel. When a conductive projectile is inserted into it, it closes the circuit, allowing an electric current to flow. This then generates a strong magnetic field, which will exert a very significant force on the loaded projectile: we are talking about Laplace force, and it is the latter which catapults the projectile.

A simple concept, but very effective. at the exit of the barrel, the object is then propelled at a speed which can be very important. The Japanese government, on the other hand, hopes to reach around 2300 meters per second. It is near seven times the speed of sound in air, and about ten times the cruising speed of an airliner. According to Nikkei Asia, it is also significantly faster than traditional interception systems.

The price of serenity

Japan considers the development of such countermeasures to be a top priority in the military context. Indeed, many countries are already working on formidable hypersonic weapons, likely to upset the balance of power between the great powers and tip the geopolitical balance. For the Land of the Rising Sun, there is therefore an urgent need to “fill that gaping hole“In the country’s defense capabilities.

We can cite China, which has tested a hypersonic missile last November. The same goes for Vladimir Putin’s Russia, who has recently tested its missiles 3M22 Zircon from a frigate and a submarine. North Korea has also claimed similar tests, including one not later thanhere.

Some fictional universes like Warhammer 40K already have destructive railguns. © Games Workshop

For these reasons, other countries like the United States are also working on railguns. But as of now, none of the contenders have yet managed to make it part of their standard operational arsenal. Japan hopes to be the first to achieve this. For this, he will focus on the development of new generation projectiles; these must be not only extremely conductive, but also very resistant. Project officials believe it could be ready in the second half of the decade.

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