In the sci-fi box office smash “Transformers,” the human race defeats the Decepticons in an epic battle by using high-tech electromagnetic weapons – a scenario which is likely to be realized by Chinese military forces, experts noted.
“Though the U.S. has been openly developing electromagnetic guns for years, it doesn’t mean that China is far behind in this field, as the latter [usually] keeps quiet about its progress due to secrecy concerns,” Chen Shuoren, a military commentator, told the Science and Technology Daily on Monday.
Chen’s remarks come after several photos of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 072 III landing ship Haiyangshan were released on Jan. 30, in which the military vessel is reportedly equipped with a railgun at its bow. Railguns use electromagnetic energy to attack targets and are considered an advanced technology that offers greater range and more lethality, while the cost is even cheaper than traditional guns.
According to Chen, though U.S. is currently the most powerful country in electromagnetic weapons research, its declining research fund has provided China a chance to catch up.
The U.S. Navy demonstrated its railgun prototypes in 2006 and announced in 2016 that it would test electromagnetic railguns on the joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3), though no railgun has ever been seen on any US military vessels.
“If the pictures are confirmed to be true, this would be a milestone for China’s electromagnetic weapons research program, with epoch-making significance,” Chen said.
According to Chen, the choice of the Type 072 III as China’s testing ship is probably due to the heavy power demand of the railgun, as this warship has room to install power generators and other equipment.
“Railguns have a natural compatibility with vessels that are equipped with integrated all-electric power systems. An all-electric system can provide enough electricity to power a railgun when needed and can allocate power to other parts of the vessel when the railgun is not in use,” said Chen, who noted that China’s fist 10,000-ton destroyer, the 055, which was unveiled in 2017, is suitable for installing railguns.
“Though the test railgun is not the final version of the high-tech weapon, its size does fit the 055 destroyer, which would become an invincible vessel once equipped with electromagnetic weapons,” Chen added.
China’s military authorities have not confirmed the speculation as of press time. The country’s latest response to railgun development was in 2015, when China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation announced that the company had made a breakthrough in electromagnetic launch technologies.