Maybe U.S. President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had the right reasons to identify China as the United States’ biggest threat to national security. And it’s not only because of “powerful competition”.
Last January 19, Mattis disclosed contents of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy which indicated China and Russia presented the strongest threat to U.S. national security. However the threat described as “powerful competition” alluded to China’s emerging dominance in global business.
While the strategy plan included a need to shore up the United States’ defense program, most of the issues raised focused on China’s and Russian’s growing influence on trade and economics.
Recently, photos appeared on Twitter which suggested that China had developed a super weapon referred to by weapons experts as an Electromagnetic Rail Gun. The technology for such a weapon has been sought after by many nations including the United States. But there has been no record of its existence until now.
How does the rail gun work?
The technology behind the rail gun follows the same concept as gun powder, which coincidentally, was discovered by the Chinese. By igniting gunpowder, projectiles are launched from a barrel. In a rail gun, electromagnetic energy is used to fire the projectile.
Essentially a rail gun can fire a projectile with the speed of a cannon but with the range of a missile. The weapon generates a powerful electromagnetic field in between two rails. The gun’s armature has an electricity-conducting device that is made out of metal. This helps launch the projectile through the two rails.
With this kind of power, ships that are fitted with rail guns can shoot out aircraft and missiles from the sky.
For years there have been reports that the United States Navy had been working on its own rail gun technology but the weapons were land-based. According to reports the U.S. Navy’s rail gun has fired projectiles clocked at more than 4,500 miles per hour which is considered Mach 6.
Lack of funding is the primary reason why the U.S. Navy has not been able to resume the research to have its rail gun mounted on its navy ships. The U.S. Navy reportedly spent $500 Million on the rail gun project.
All that could change if Congress approves President Trump’s request for a massive $716 Billion defense budget for 2019. Throughout his campaign, Trump has advocated the need for the United States to strengthen its national defense capabilities which includes re-starting its nuclear arms program.
Justin Bronk, a combat technology researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in the United Kingdom, expressed concern China’s rail gun may surpass U.S. technology:
“It’s too fast and too small for current anti-airship missile and anti-aircraft defense systems… If they can get it integrated as a major component into their future fleet arsenal, it will give them a really significant edge over the U.S. Navy.”