It fires a 40-pound metal slug up to 5,600 miles per hour from New York to Philadelphia, slamming into its target with 32 times the force of a "1-ton car being thrust at 100 mph." Railguns aren't sci-fi anymore.
We'd seen experimental lab models of a railgun weapon that were impressive enough—but they were just that: lab models. Enormous, room-filling contraptions that looked nothing like something you'd see on the deck of a destroyer. But for the first time, the Navy says it's successfully tested a fully weaponized railgun built by BAE, a private weapons firm. This is a huge milestone, bending the thing away from paper and fiction. "It finally looks like a gun," the Navy told us. And they're right. Each round is designed to destroy ships, land targets and missiles (ha!) with nothing more than kinetic energy—the equivalent of throwing a rock through someone's window. Right now the Navy's employing deliberately non-aerodynamic rounds that slow down (so the Virginian testing ground doesn't level a town), but they'll be refined into GPS-guided piercing conical chunks down the line. But that line is long.