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This May, the US Navy received the portable power system that will be used to fire its futuristic railguns.

General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Systems Groups (GA-EMS) has delivered a prototype of the pulse power containers (PPC) for the weapons it’s developing.

Raytheon has also announced it is shipping its first PPC units to the Navy.

The third contractor, L-3 Applied Technologies, is expected to complete work on its own version of the PPC within a year.

The Navy will be testing the PPC units with two EM railgun models. One is a 32 megajoule Blitzer developed by GA-EMS, while the other is a 32 megajoule prototype from British defence contractor BAE Systems.

On its own end, GA-EMS has successfully designed, built, and tested two railguns: a 32 megajoule launcher for the Navy’s Office of Naval Research, and the other is an internally funded 3 megajoule Blitzer.

A railgun weapon is comprised of a launcher, projectile, a high-density pulse power system, and a fire control mechanism. Energy requirements are understandably huge. For a railgun to fire 10 shots per minute, the PPC must recharge within seconds, drawing power from its host ship, and to discharge the energy in a very short time while safely managing the thermal load generated by the operation.

To this end, PPCs are basically huge banks of capacitors packed inside standard containers. Each unit should hold enough energy to discharge 18 kilowatts for each shot fired.

“Directed energy has the potential to redefine military technology beyond missiles and our pulse power modules and containers will provide the tremendous amount of energy required to power applications like the Navy Railgun,” said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business.