Japan Ministry of Defense (Boei-sho) is increasing funding for development of electromagnetic (EM) railguns and examining the possibility of using such systems to counter hypersonic weapons. In order to counter threats such as those posed by hypersonic missiles, the research on future railguns enabling a barrage of gunfire with a high initial velocity will be conducted. The ministry’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) has been allocated ¥6.5 billion ($56 million) for FY2022, which starts in April, to fund efforts to complete the development of an EM railgun weapon system by FY2026.
The ATLA rail gun prototype is the product of high-level research that began in 2016. The time, the original purpose of the project was to promote interoperability with what was at the time seen as the future mainstay weapon of the US navy surface fleet. The original goals for the research initiative were to design a weapon capable of anti-air, anti-ship, and surface attack warfare; the projectile was to be fired at 7,240 kilometers per hour over a range of 200 kilometers. The weapon would eventually be designed to have a firing rate of ten shots per minute. The proof-of-concept system can theoretically launch a ten kilogram projectile at over 2,000 meters per second.
With a railgun, an electroconductive projectile is loaded between two prongs, also made from electroconductive material. ATLA is striving to build those two rails from a strong material that can easily conduct electricity and sustain the firing of more than 120 projectiles. Tokyo is increasingly focused on the development of advanced military technologies such as EM railguns, as well as high-power microwave- and laser-based weapon systems to help counter the growing missile threat posed by neighbouring countries, including China, North Korea, and Russia. Such technologies will most likely become a ‘game changer’ in the field of missile defence.
Janes reported on 19 January that a study to develop the capability is expected to accelerate in 2022. The spokesperson told Janes added that ATLA will launch studies of future railguns in 2022. These studies will aim to establish entire technologies necessary for early practical use for missile defence and anti-ship operations. The studies aim to achieve a high rate-of-fire and projectile flight stability for the railguns. Janes has previously reported on a video shared by ATLA in July 2018, which showcased a small-calibre developmental EM railgun along with related support and test equipment.