Japan Successfully Tests Railgun for Intercepting Hypersonic Missiles

On October 17th, Japan announced the successful testing of a railgun.

27/10/2023 - 10:45

For the tests, Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces collaborated with the Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA), a division of the Japanese Ministry of Defense, according to Sarbaz.kz, citing Japan Times.

A railgun is an electromagnetic weapon capable of firing projectiles at speeds of about seven times the speed of sound, which is roughly 7 Mach, targeting ships, missiles, and aircraft.

Japan aspires to use the railgun on land and at sea, making this test a significant achievement in this emerging technology.

ATLA released video footage showing the railgun in action, demonstrating projectile firing from various angles. The Japanese Ministry of Defense announced its decision to develop an electromagnetic weapons system for intercepting enemy hypersonic missiles at the beginning of 2022.

"Starting in the 2016 fiscal year, we have been studying railgun-based technologies. During our research, we focused on increasing the launch velocity and developing rail materials with high current-carrying capability," said an ATLA representative to JANES.

Some Japanese officials have long predicted and stated that the country aims to combine its railgun system with long-range missiles to enhance its capability to intercept aerial targets.

The development and testing of these railguns are taking place as Tokyo contemplates how to adequately counter the threat posed by hypersonic weapons being developed by regional adversaries. An earlier Japanese politician told Nikkei Asia that Japan is creating a railgun system primarily to prevent missile launches, not to intercept them.

Amid increasing global and regional tensions, Japan is bolstering its defensive capabilities and military readiness, including plans to expedite purchases of Tomahawk missiles, develop long-range missiles, and acquire the ability to strike enemy bases in the face of a growing threat from an increasingly assertive China.

What Do We Know About the Japanese Railgun? While there is limited information available about the ATLA railgun, current specifications of the medium-sized ATLA electromagnetic railgun prototype, first spotted in May this year, emphasize its ability to fire 40-millimeter steel projectiles weighing 320 grams (0.7 pounds) at speeds of approximately 2,230 meters per second.

It is currently unknown which Japanese Navy ships will host these future railguns, but experts anticipate they will be installed on interceptor destroyers.

Railguns can engage threats at different speeds. Operators can adjust the speed at which the interceptor moves by manipulating the amount of electrical power consumed. These railguns are also inconspicuous due to the small size of their projectiles.

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