Japan test fired EM railgun at sea

ATLA EM railgun test
ATLA EM railgun test

Japan has successfully performed an at-sea live firing trial of an electromagnetic (EM) railgun, the Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA) announced on 17 October.

“ATLA has accomplished ship-board firing test of [a] railgun for first time in the world with the cooperation of the Japanese Marine Self-Defense Force [JMSDF],” the agency said on its official social media account, noting that the effort is aimed at protecting vessels against aerial and surface threats using high-speed effectors.

It is not known which JMSDF vessel supported the firing trial, but local observers have speculated that a likely candidate would be the service’s Experimental Ship JS Asuka, which is designed specifically to test and validate new systems and capabilities.

ATLA earlier announced in May 2022 that it’s Ground Systems Research Centre had completed a ¥6.5 billion research contract with Japan Steel Works (JSW) to develop a prototype medium railgun. It also signed a separate contract worth ¥3.7 billion with JSW to develop associated electrical components such as compact capacitors and power supply units.

ATLA also stated previously that it had achieved a launch velocity of over 2,200 m/s with five megajoules (MJ) of charge energy in a 2018 test with a smaller prototype. It is understood that the ultimate aim of the programme is to develop a large-calibre railgun with a charge energy in the 20 MJ-class.

Japan is not the first country to have integrated an EM railgun for shipboard testing. In 2018 images of what appeared to be a comparable system mounted on a Chinese Yuting-I class naval landing ship, the Haiyangshan, emerged on Chinese social media. The ship allegedly transited the Yangtze River to the Pacific Ocean for testing, although there was no subsequent evidence or announcements indicating a successful firing.

by Jr Ng