www.globalresearch.ca Centre for Research on Globalisation Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation
Devastating weapon which uses no explosive will transform tank warfare
THE United States has been working for almost three decades on a project to create a hyper-velocity supergun whose shells could be fired without chemical propellant or a high-explosive warhead.
It appeared to be in the realms of science fiction until Ronald Reagan pumped billions of dollars into the abortive Star Wars missile defence programme and financed the breakthrough into electro-magnetic technology.
The biggest barrier until recently was the size of the propulsion unit needed to hurl a solid projectile, at five times the speed of a Concorde jet, by harnessing and focusing the force from magnetised electrical coils along twin rails. Only a decade ago, the "rail gun" as it was then known needed a launcher the size of an articulated truck.
Quantum leaps in miniaturisation have now enabled a transatlantic consortium, headed by the Lockheed Martin corporation, to produce a weapon which could revolutionise tank warfare.
The electro-magnetic gun(EMG), to be tested at full power for the first time at Scotland's Dundrennan firing range, in theory, can propel a slug towards its target at between two and three miles a second. It can kill an enemy tank five miles away by sheer speed of its flight - estimated to be up to 7500mph - to wreak incredible damage , shattering ceramic plates, slicing through steel and melting carbon in the process.
The one unspoken element in the equation is the material for the slugs. Depleted uranium, the throwaway waste-product of the nuclear power industry, is used by every modern army in the world to make penetrator rods for its anti-tank shells. The DU-tipped rounds can defeat all armour at 1500 yards and most at twice that range.
The catch is that the impact, penetration and pyrotechnic effect of the DU throws out radioactive dust which can pollute the area downwind of the target, contaminate plants and water supplies and cause kidney damage and cancers in humans.
BAe Systems, the UK's biggest defence contractor, the Army and the MoD have pinned their hopes on successful tests leading to a revolution in armoured warfare.
Until now, the helicopter gunship was gradually displacing cumbersome armoured vehicles as the main killer on the modern battlefield. Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Crawford, a defence consultant, said: "I would not be surprised to see this weapon deployed, by the US at least, before 2020."
Supergun test under fire over toxic fears
© Copyright Scotland Herald 2003 For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .