A French-German electromagnetic (EM) railgun project was unveiled during the 2017 “DGA Innovations” event hosted by the French defense procurement agency (DGA). Launched by the ISL (French-German Research Institute of Saint-Louis) in 1987, the project was mostly kept under cover until now.
A full scale EM railgun prototype dubbed “Pegasus” was built in 1997 at ISL facility in Eastern France, close to the German border. At the 2017 DGA innovation event, ISL was showcasing for the first time a fully function, truck-mounted EM railgun and was even demonstrating the firing of 5x5mm projectiles, live during the show. The tiny projectiles have muzzle velocity of 120 meters per seconds.
The 10 MJ PEGASUS is being used to advance the launcher and armature technology towards a reliable half-scale long range artillery system. Recent results include the successful launch of in-house developed launch packages (mass range is kg) for hypervelocity (> 2500 m/s) projectile acceleration. The ISL launch technology sets worldwide accepted standards with regard to the efficiency of the conversion of electric energy into kinetic energy (> 35%). ISL’s railgun facilities are unique in Europe.
This new technology brings the capability to fire high speed projectiles (Mach 9 speed / 3 Km per second) while increasing the range five-fold with a better impact efficiency. Ultimately, the technology should be able to replace cruise missiles at a fraction of the cost.
ISL is working on ultra compact power supplies capable to deliver 1 GW in form factor 10 times smaller. To achieve this, ISL is working with a number of new technologies such as magnetic power supplies, ultra rapid switches and supraconductors: Below -200°C, some materials have no resistance to power. They may conduct electricty without any loss.
Industry partners in the project include: Naval Group, ISL, Nexter Systems, Nexter Munitions and MBDA. A Naval Group concept ship (scale model) fitted with EM Railguns is set to be unveiled at Euronaval 2018. DGA and ISL believe that the first pratical application for the technology would indeed be in the naval field.