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A-10's GAU-8 Avenger Gun vs Navy's Experimental Railgun


GAU-8 Avenger 30 MM vs Volkswagen Beetle. The A-10 was actually built around its gun.


Navy's Experimental Railgun as built by BAE - about 32 megajoules.


As one can see from the top picture, the GAU-8 Avenger canon is quite large with the gun itself weighing 620 pounds (280 kg), and the complete weapon, with feed system and drum, weighing 4,029 pounds (1,828 kg) with a maximum ammunition load.


The A-10 Warthog's famous GAU-8 Avenger is truly a monstrous gun with monstrous power, but how does it compare the Navy experimental 32 megajoule (MJ) railgun canceled in July of 2021 pictured in the 2nd photograph?

Of course a railgun system is bigger - a lot bigger. In fact when you include the capacitors, batteries, generator, the railgun mount (or turret) and the very heavy railgun itself you are in the hundreds of tons. Prior to its cancellation it demonstrated impressive power with each Mach 7 shot of the 10 kg railgun projectile generating 32 MJ of kinetic energy at the muzzle. For reference, each megajoule of kinetic energy is equivalent to a Ford Focus passenger car traveling at 85 mph,e.g if you drive the Ford Focus into a real thick concrete wall at 85 mph you will releasing about 1 megajoule of energy. So, each railgun round has a muzzle kinetic energy of 32 Ford Focuses traveling at 85 mph. Suffice it to say, each shot from the Navy's experimental railgun packs a lot of energy into a 10 kg package


In contrast. each 30 mm round fired from the A-10 Warthog GAU-8 Avenger weighs 0.69 Kg and has a muzzle velocity of "only" about 3400 fps, about Mach 3. At its lowest selectable firing rate of 2100 rounds per minute, the GAU-8 will take 2.4 seconds to generate 32 MJ of total kinetic energy from the 84 rounds fired. At it normal firing rate of 3900 rounds per minute, it will take about 1.4 seconds to dump out the same number of rounds to equal the railgun's 32 MJ.

Of course no deployable/practical railgun exists, whereas the GAU-8 has an enviable record of battlefield accomplishments.


Note 1: While the actual railgun round will have 32 MJ of energy at the muzzle, the railgun must actually accelerate the integrated launch package which includes the sabot, the armatures and the round itself. Altogether, this roughly doubles the weight of the round alone. Consequently, launching a railgun projectile with 32 MJ of muzzle energy requires 64 MJ of energy to get the integrated launch package up to Mach 7.


Note 2: China is still talking about installing railgun system on their active duty warships. Given the challenges this seem unlikely for the foreseeable future, and even if they are installed a good case be made that their cost, weight and size do not justify their displacing other weapons.

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