Meanwhile, the prized electromagnetic railgun got
its start through sponsorship by ONR in a project that
was initiated in 2005. Researchers have delivered a
weapon that would use no explosives, and rely entirely
on kinetic energy.
Now in development with Naval Sea Systems Command and industry partners, the futuristic railgun is
part of a portfolio of weapons using electromagnetic-directed energy systems — a technology that could
eclipse the use of gunpowder and rocket propellant at
sea. The weapon uses an electrical pulse and a metal
projectile, Freeman said. The electricity alone propels
the metal at six times the speed of sound, and the projectile can travel more than 100 miles.
“It hits targets with so much force that it doesn’t
need to explode. It can take down an aircraft. It can
sink a ship just from the force of its power,” he said.
“The rail gun is considered one of our success stories.
It is astonishing.”
Last May, for the first time, DoD and the U.S. Naval
Research Laboratory (NRL) staged a one-day exhibi-
tion called “Lab Day” at the Pentagon to showcase lab-
oratory research and state-of-the-art warfighter tech-
nology for invited guests, among them members of
Congress, senior leaders, students and media. The
event, hosted by Frank Kendall, undersecretary of
defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, was
designed to increase the understanding and complexi-
ty of the defense laboratory community.
More than 100 innovations, many of which were sponsored by ONR and other funding organizations, included
examples of new capabilities developed by NRL as well
research organizations in the Army, Marine Corps, Air
Force and various DoD medical laboratories.
Through displays and demonstrations, new technologies for autonomous and unmanned systems,
alternative energy, information dominance, power projection and warfighter performance exhibited the latest
— and highest priority — technologies for advancing
U.S. military capabilities.
“The nation’s top scientists come here and they stay
here because the work is rewarding,” Dr. John Mont-
gomery, director of research at NRL, said in an event press
statement. “We bring together the best minds and give
them the freedom they need to pursue these wild and
As a chief sponsor within DoD of science and
research, ONR abides by a similar philosophy, Freeman
said. ONR, he said, tries to encourage its researchers and
scientists to think out of the box — and to be fearless.
“There are some wild ideas that come out of here
and not all of them are ever going to see the light of
day, but that is the nature of science,” Freeman said.
“There is no such thing as failure in science. If you do
an experiment and it doesn’t work, you have now
increased your knowledge about that topic because
you know what didn’t work. And so, that is a success.
Knowledge of any kind is a success in science.” ■
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 52 SEAPOWER / JULY/AUGUST 2015
One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes was displayed aboard the joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket in port
at Naval Base San Diego July 8, 2014. The railguns were being displayed in San Diego as part of the Electromagnetic
Launch Symposium, which brought together representatives from the U.S. and allied navies, industry and academia to
discuss directed energy technologies.