San Diego’s General Atomics, manufacturer of the controversial Predator and Reaper drones used by the U.S. military and others, has announced significant progress on a more conventional piece of weaponry that could be ready for production in as little as two to three years: the Blitzer electromagnetic railgun.
The company has been working on similar ship-mounted guns since the 1980s and received a military grant to continue research in 2011, but this version of the Blitzer would be suitable for mounting on land-based vehicles.
With the ability to launch a projectile at speeds of up to 11,500 feet per second without using an explosive charge — roughly four times as fast as a bullet fired from an M16 rifle — such a weapon could propel projectiles capable of doing as much damage as a Tomahawk missile at a fraction of the cost. General Atomics also touts the improved safety to troops, who wouldn't be carrying as much volatile explosive material into combat.
A working demonstration model of the Blitzer is expected by 2016, according to reports, with full production capabilities in place by 2019.