Navy’s top admiral admits railgun program is a disaster, example of “how innovation shouldn’t happen”

A railgun projectile is fired during a test. (US NAVY)

The US Navy likely won’t be able to beat China to deploying the first combat-ready naval railgun, and the branch’s chief of naval operations is more than willing to express regret over the project.

Admiral John Richardson spoke before an audience at the Atlantic Council yesterday, referring to the decade-old and perpetually half-finished weapons system as a good example of “how innovation shouldn’t happen.”

“I would say that railgun is kind of the case study that would say ‘This is how innovation maybe shouldn’t happen,'” Richardson said. “It’s been around, I think, for about 15 years, maybe 20. So ‘rapid’ doesn’t come to mind when you’re talking about timeframes like that.”

While the system -much like many systems in the modern defense development era- quickly became an overpriced and underwhelming monstrosity, Richardson still has hope that the $500m project will eventually turn into a success of sorts.

“So we’re going to continue after this, right? We’re going to install this thing. We’re going to continue to develop it, test it,” he said. “It’s too great a weapon system, so it’s going somewhere, hopefully.”

According to Business Insider, the project has some successes- the hypervelocity projectile created for the railgun is quite effective and, as Richardson put it, “usable in just about every gun we have.”

Another issue with the railgun is that it’s not terribly useful. Despite being impressive technology that can launch projectiles at amazing speeds, it is still generally deemed inferior to missiles and artillery shells.

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