Japan to begin research into railguns

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Japan to begin research into railguns

The Defense Ministry will begin full-fledged research to develop railguns that fire projectiles at a very high speed, using electromagnetic force as a means of intercepting hypersonic missiles.

The ministry is considering using railguns for anti-ship strikes.

The government's budget for fiscal 2022 starts in April and includes 6.5 billion in costs related to the development of railguns. The ministry plans to conduct research over the next seven years.

Railguns use electromagnetic force generated by passing electricity through rails installed in the barrel instead of using gunpowder to launch projectiles.

A speed of 2,297 meters per second, or nearly Mach 7, was recorded in a test by the ministry's Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency. Railguns can fire projectiles in quick succession and have a long range.

The devices require a large amount of electricity. It would be necessary to reduce the size of large capacity power equipment for the weapons as railguns are expected to be mounted on warships and vehicles.

Other technical problems include how to ensure the stability of railguns when they fire projectiles, and how to select materials for the rails that can withstand the intense heat produced when projectiles are launched.

The US military began research on railgun technology more than 10 years ago, but has yet to put it into practical use.

The ministry has secured 1 billion in a supplementary budget for 2016 to begin its research into railguns.

The ministry decided to increase its outlays for the technology this year. The ministry believes that railguns could be a game changer that could transform the strategic environment.

North Korea and China are developing hypersonic weapons that can be launched on irregular trajectories. A ballistic missile fired by North Korea on Tuesday reached a speed of Mach 10 and flew on an irregular trajectory, according to the ministry.

It would be difficult to intercept such missiles with Japan's existing missile defense capabilities.

A senior ministry official said that the development of attack missiles and the technology to intercept them has gone into a spiral.

The defense minister Nobuo Kishi said on Tuesday that railguns could be used for a variety of purposes, including missile defense and antiship attacks.