• The Navy built super-fast ammo to use in futuristic railguns.
• But the railguns aren't on ships yet, so the Navy is adapting the ammo for traditional guns.
• It could make destroyers much more lethal.
The Navy is adapting a projectile originally developed for railguns to fit guns on existing destroyers and cruisers. The projectile, which tears through through the skies at Mach 3, opens up entirely new possibilities for standard Navy deck guns, including shooting down missiles.
During the early 2010s, the Navy and defense contractor BAE Systems began work on hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs) for railguns. Fired from guns that used magnetism to accelerate objects to speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the projectiles didn't even have explosive warheads. The kinetic energy punch from an object moving at Mach 7 could cause enough damage.
Both the Navy and BAE originally thought they would field HVPs for railguns first and then adapt them for other uses. Now, it's 2017 and there are zero railguns in the fleet. On the other hand, there are several hundred five-inch (127mm) in the fleet, at least one per destroyer and cruiser. Each Mark 45 has a range of 14 miles and is typically used to engage targets on land. In a pinch the gun can engage other ships or even aircraft, although cruisers and destroyers have other, better weapon systems to target both.
HVPs designed for the five-inch guns travel faster and farther than conventional five-inch projectiles. While a conventional Mark 45 has an effective range of 14 miles, HVP rounds will . They are not only fast but also guided, capable of homing in on precise targets. Throw in a maximum rate of fire of 20 rounds a minute and a single destroyer can destroy up to 20 targets in just one minute.
The addition of a guidance system and steering fins to the HVP opens up the Mark 45 to new missions other than shore bombardment. Tying the HVP to the ship's fire-control systems, a Mark 45 could engage incoming missiles, both cruise missiles and high-altitude ballistic missiles, aircraft, and other ships. The HVP will likely come in multiple flavors, including a high-explosive round for land attack, a dart-like round for anti-ship work, and a high-explosive round with a proximity fuse that explodes once it nears enemy aircraft and missiles, showering the enemy with lethal bits of shrapnel.
According to Scout Warrior, several defense contractors including Raytheon and BAE Systems are developing projectiles for the Mark 45, and a test demonstration .