The railgun's capabilities are impressive. It can fire a projectile at an initial speed of 4,500 miles an hour, piercing seven steel plates and leave a 5-inch hole, Julian E. Barnes wrote for the Wall Street Journal. The weapon has a maximum range of 125 miles.
Although the railgun, in development for a decade, transforms a 25-pound projectile into nothing short of a battlefield meteorite obliterating anything on its path, the weapon does not use gunpowder or any explosives. It is instead powered by electromagnetic rails.
The railgun's additional advantage comes from the fact that it is a significantly more affordable weapon than the Pentagon's latest military procurements. A single Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II costs approximately $100 million apiece, while a projectile for the railgun is estimated to cost up to $50,000.
The experimental weapon comes at a time when Russia and China have significantly advanced their military capabilities and the Pentagon, as well as US defense analysts worry that the days of America's undisputed military advantage are over.
The deadly new supergun is meant to change this. The weapon, US officials hope, will help "to keep the US ahead of advancing Russian and Chinese weaponry," Barnes noted.
Yet despite the Pentagon's aspirations, the railgun will not be able to change the existing balance of power in the world, defense analyst Alexei Fenenko of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) told RIA Novosti. Instead they will most likely be used as a "psychological factor."
Moreover, the technology is apparently not new.
"They developed similar weapons back in the 1950s as part of a program aimed at creating tactical nuclear weapons to protect Western Germany from the Soviets. As usual, something new is a well-forgotten old," defense analyst Alexei Fenenko of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) explained.