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Japan's ATLA progresses railgun project

ATLA has confirmed that the EM railgun achieved 2,297 m/s projectile speed during recent trials. (ATLA)

Japan is developing electromagnetic (EM) railguns to counter emerging threats including hypersonic weapons.

A spokesperson from Japan's Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) told Janes on 19 January that a study to develop the capability is expected to accelerate in 2022.

“Since financial year 2016 we have studied the underlying technologies of railguns. In the studies we have worked on increasing launch velocity and establishing material technologies for the rails, which have high current endurance characteristics,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that ATLA will launch studies of future railguns in 2022. These studies will aim to establish entire technologies necessary for early practical use for missile defence and anti-ship operations. The studies aim to achieve a high rate-of-fire and projectile flight stability for the railguns, said the spokesperson.

Janes has previously reported on a video shared by ATLA in July 2018, which showcased a small-calibre developmental EM railgun along with related support and test equipment.

ATLA claimed in the video that the railgun can theoretically fire a 10 kg projectile at speeds of more than 2,000 m/s if powered by a current exceeding two mega-amperes.

ATLA's spokesperson confirmed on 19 January that the railguns under trials achieved 2,297 m/s projectile speed recently. The trial results, along with earlier claims, should help ascertain the size of the projectile and the power being used in testing.

The statement on the intended performance of the finalised EM railgun suggested that it will be a large-calibre weapon with a muzzle energy in the region of 20 MJ.

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