Guidance for hyper velocity projectiles will involve the most rugged electronics ever developed

THE MIL & AERO VIDEO BLOG, 6 Aug. 2012. Imagine a naval surface battle without missiles. Okay, it's really not that hard; many of the big ones -- Trafalgar, Jutland, Leyte Gulf -- didn't have missiles. They only had the most powerful naval guns of their eras.

To add punch and accuracy to surface warfare, the Navy later added anti-ship missiles like the Harpoon to its arsenal. Big guns and big missiles are effective, but they have their drawbacks. Missiles are expensive, with their rocket engines and precision guidance. Big naval guns cause lots of damage to the enemy -- sometimes too much -- and they're dangerous for the users, as well. In 1989 a turret on the USS Iowa fitted with three 16-inch guns exploded, killing 47 crewmen.

Now imagine a naval surface battle fought not with missiles, and not with big guns, but with hypervelocity projectiles launched from shipboard electromagnetic railguns. The U.S. Navy is imagining doing just this, and to do it they need some of the most rugged electronics and guidance systems ever developed.

Now everybody has an idea of how naval guns and missiles work. The 16-inch main guns on Iowa-class battleships travels at about 1,800 miles per hour, give or take; it's about the speed of a bullet. The shell reaches its top speed shortly after leaving the gun's barrel, so that projectile is under some pretty impressive G forces at the instant of firing.

Now think about a naval anti-ship missile like the U.S. Harpoon, or French Exocet. That weapon has a top speed of about 540 miles per hour -- or less than a third the speed of a battleship shell. A missile, moreover, builds up to its top speed much more gradually than an artillery shell, and so safeguards its guidance electronics from excessive and potentially damaging G forces.

But now think of future generations of hyper-velocity projectiles launched from shipboard electromagnetic railguns. These naval munitions will travel at about six thousand miles per hour, or eight times the speed of sound. That's more than three times the speed of a battleship shell -- which will subject these projectiles to 20,000 to 30,000 Gs at launch.

Now these hyper-velocity projectiles of the future won't simply be dumb munitions like a battleship shell. They will have their own electronic guidance systems, which will have to survive the crushing G forces of launch, and intense heat of hypervelocity flight, to guide these future weapons to their targets.

This isn't just science fiction either. The Office of Naval Research has announced the Hyper Velocity Projectile program, which seeks to develop rugged electronics, strong materials, and warheads for accurate high-velocity weapons. Navy researchers demonstrated an electromagnetic railgun prototype four years ago. Trust me, this kind of weapon is coming.

Hyper-velocity projectiles destroy targets by pure speed; they don't even need conventional explosive warheads. The kinetic energy alone is enough to make vehicle-size targets disappear in balls of fire.

Shoot an electromagnetic railgun at a target 10 miles away and the projectile gets there in less than six seconds. For a target 200 miles away it gets there in about two minutes. A missile would take more than 20 minutes to reach such a distant target. Furthermore, no one would hear it coming, and probably wouldn't even be able to see it.

I guess that's the idea.

Follow Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence news updates on Twitter

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

XCalibur1645 | Freescale Eight-Core P4080 Processor-Based Conduction-Cooled 6U VPX Module

The XCalibur1645 is a high-performance, 6U VPX, single board computer supporting Freescale QorIQ ...

Round Dome Light - NVIS

Blue Wolf’s NVIS MIL-STD-3009 Dome light is designed for cabin illumination or cargo areas. It ha...

Optical Switches

Multiport (N x M) Optical Switches from large core, multimode and Plastic Optical Fiber (POF) for...

NVIS White Post Light Cap Insert

Blue Wolf’s MIL-STD-3009 Post Light cap inserts are specifically designed for illuminating instru...

Dual Mode NVIS 4 Inch Pod Light

Blue Wolf’s new DUAL Mode NVIS 4 inch pod lights is fully rotatable thru 320 degrees, can be fixe...

XCalibur5090 | Dual Virtex-7 Based Digital Signal Processing 6U LRM FPGA with Quad 2500 MSPS DAC and 3200 MSPS ADC

The XCalibur5090 is a high-performance, reconfigurable, conduction-cooled 6U LRM module based on ...

NVIS Gooseneck Map Light

NVIS MIL-STD-3009 White Gooseneck Map Light. 0 to 100% brightness control. Tactile feedback and ...

XPedite7574 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7574 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

NVIS White Utility Light

Blue Wolf’s NVIS MIL-STD-3009 Utility Lights is specifically designed for easy handling and spot ...

ScanFaker Radar Stimulation Board

The versatile ScanFaker Radar Display Stimulator Card can interface to virtually any radar displa...

Related Companies

Blue Wolf

Blue Wolf has been designing Night Vision (NVIS) LED lighting products for Government and Commercial vehicles since 2...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

Dspnor AS

Offers radar signal processing and distribution. The products interface to virtually any radar system in use today. T...


Mil Spec EMC/NEMP/ filters and EMC product solutions for military applications.


PALMARII Dynamics is a Swedish company incorporated in 2012 as a competence centre for specialist naval architecture ...


Pelorus Naval Systems is a specialist naval defense engineering and support services company with headquarters in Ran...

Southwest Antennas

Southwest Antennas designs and manufactures high-performance RF & Microwave antennas and accessories designed for tod...


ISVI designs, produces and sells machine-vision camera systems combining high-speed and high-resolution sensors with ...

Premier Polymers

Provides seamless epoxy flooring and industrial resinous coatings

CORWIL Technology Corp

CORWIL Technology, the premier US based, IC assembly and test services subcontractor, offering full back-end assembly...


Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles