Wait, what now? I thought the rail gun was supposed to be able to fire rocks that cost pennies apiece? Now we’re being told that the rail gun projectiles, filled with tungsten pellets, will cost $25,000 - $50,000 each (1).
One of the selling points of the rail gun was that the projectiles would be much cheaper than any existing munition because the projectile would be an inert lump. Now, it seems that’s not the case
We’ve already talked about the limitations of a rail gun, chief of which is that it doesn’t explode which makes it useless as an area bombardment weapon. It’s limited to pinpoint impact on fixed targets.
A second limitation is that the projectiles are unguided although a guidance package is being studied. Thus, the projectile can’t track moving targets and can’t accept laser guidance. The targets must be fixed and the co-ordinates known.
Now, we have another limitation and that is munition cost. At $50,000 per projectile (it’s always the higher cost and you can safely assume that cost will go even higher) we can’t just go flinging these things around.
Could it be that rail guns not quite the miracle we were led to believe?
(1)Wall Street Journal website, “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet - A First Look At America’s Supergun”, Julian Barnes,