In a remarkable technological milestone, the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA) fired a developmental electromagnetic (EM) railgun from a sea vessel for the very first time. The historic event was shared on social media, with ATLA releasing video footage on October 17, showcasing the railgun firing rounds into the ocean.
In a statement, ATLA stressed the significance of using railgun technology to defend ships with fast-moving projectiles against air and surface threats. With the offshore firing test, Japan’s defense capabilities advanced significantly and it was conducted from a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) vessel.
This achievement is part of ATLA’s ongoing efforts to advance railgun technology and collect data for “future railgun research.” The project is closely linked to the Ministry of Defense’s Defense Buildup Program, which aims to improve Japan’s ability to intercept various airborne threats, including hypersonic missiles.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense, in January 2023, signed a contract with an unspecified company for the “temporary equipment of 40mm railguns for vessel investigation work.” While the contractor’s name was not revealed, Japan Steel Works, Ltd. is known to be involved in the railgun project.
An ATLA spokesperson stated that the recent offshore firing test successfully confirmed the compatibility of the railgun with the vessel and provided valuable data on the effects of ship-mounting. This marks a crucial step towards practical deployment.
ATLA has been actively pursuing railgun technology since fiscal year 2016, investing significant resources in research and development. The prototype of the railgun system weighs 8 tons and boasts a 6-meter-long cannon barrel. Previous tests have shown that the railgun can fire projectiles at speeds of 2,297 m/s, equivalent to Mach 6.5.
Looking ahead, ATLA is concentrating on developing the total technology required for the early practical realization of railguns, including flight stability and rapid fire capability. The Ministry of Defense is still dedicated to using railgun technology to quickly enhance Japan’s defense capabilities.
Recent years have seen large funding commitments made to assist these efforts; railgun research will get 16 billion yen in fiscal year 2023 and 6.5 billion yen in fiscal year 2022. A further 23.8 billion yen have been proposed for railgun development in the fiscal year 2024 budget, demonstrating Japan’s steadfast dedication to improving its defense capabilities in the face of changing threats.