The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has reportedly equipped one of its warships with an advanced electromagnetic railgun.
Several photos of the Navy’s Type 072 III landing ship Haiyangshan (hull number 936) were released on Jan. 30, in which the military vessel is reportedly equipped with a railgun at its bow. The 119.5-meter landing ships usually carry a H/PJ76F twin 37mm gun system on the bow.
Railguns use electromagnetic energy to attack targets and are considered an advanced technology that offers greater range and more lethality, while the cost is even cheaper than traditional guns.
U.S. is leading the electromagnetic weapons research, but its declining research fund has provided China a chance to catch up.
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. If this turns out to be an actual EM railgun, China would become the very first country to test such a system at sea.
If the pictures are confirmed to be true, this would be a milestone for China’s electromagnetic weapons research program. China’s military authorities have not confirmed the speculation. The country’s latest response to railgun development was in 2015, when China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation announced that the company had made a breakthrough in electromagnetic launch technologies.
According to reports, the choice of the Type 072 III as China’s testing ship is probably due to the heavy power demand of the railgun, as this warship has room to install power generators and other equipment.
“Railguns have a natural compatibility with vessels that are equipped with integrated all-electric power systems. An all-electric system can provide enough electricity to power a railgun when needed and can allocate power to other parts of the vessel when the railgun is not in use,” said Chen Shuoren, a military commentator, who noted that China’s fist 10,000-ton destroyer, the 055, which was unveiled in 2017, is suitable for installing railguns.
“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,” Chen added.