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The European Defence Agency (EDA) has selected the PILUM consortium to lead a disruptive technology research project into electromagnetic railgun technologies.

PILUM (Projectiles for Increased Long-range effects Using Electro-Magnetic railgun) will spend two years aiming at proving that this type of railgun concept is capable of launching precision hypervelocity projectiles to ranges of several hundred kilometres. It will thus demonstrate the electromagnetic railgun has the potential for disruptive change in long-range fire support. Compared to earlier powder railgun designs, this new technology can achieve hypersonic velocities, multiplying the effective reach by five.

This type of railgun uses electromagnetic force by injecting very high currents into conducting rails. The project will examine the possibility of integrating the railgun into ground and naval platforms and in a first phase, will validate the concept using numerical simulations and experimental work. It represents a significant step towards developing a full-scale demonstrator in the next few years. This disruptive technology presages an important operational asset, since it reduces the exposure of launch platforms and crew by increasing engagement distance.

Critical to ensuring capability superiority, the programme will make a substantial contribution to reinforcing European strategic autonomy. It will also support advances in multiple sovereign technologies, including aerothermodynamics, projectile technologies, material strength, energy storage and conversion as well as various electric and electromagnetic phenomena likely to produce benefits for further applications.

The project is part of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) research programme financed by the European Commission and managed by the EDA.

The consortium is coordinated by the French-German Research Institute of Saint-Louis and brings together nine partners from five European countries with complementary technical, industrial and scientific expertise:

  • ISL, a European leader in electromagnetic acceleration and coordinator of the project;
  • the Von Karman Research Institute (Belgium), specialised in fluid dynamics and propulsion;
  • two system integrators, Naval Group and Nexter Systems (France);
  • two ammunition suppliers, Diehl Defence (Germany) and Nexter Munitions (France);
  • Explomet (Poland), a small company specialised in the explosive cladding of metals;
  • ICAR (Italy), manufacturer of high-density electric capacitors;
  • Erdyn Consultants (France), an expert in management of European collaborative projects.

Electromagnetic railguns, similar to the BAE Systems demonstrator for the USN shown here, have the potential to be disruptive technologies for the future battlespace. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

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