What appears to be the world’s first naval rail gun – a hypersonic weapon capable of firing projectiles at five times the speed of sound – has been pictured on a Chinese naval warship at sea.
A hazy photo, posted by defence blogger Haohan-Red Shark emerged on Chinese social media last week, claims to show the tank landing ship Haiyang Shan at sea with what looks like an electromagnetic railgun (EMRG) mounted on its bow.
The same Type 072II Yuting-class tank landing ship was pictured with the same weapon atop the bow in a port at an unknown location last March.
The latest development in warfare technology means China is the first to develop a electromagnetic weapon, despite the US dedicating millions of dollars and more than a decade to its own railgun program.
An US intelligence report found that China’s weapon would be able to strike 200km (125miles) away with a projectile velocity of 2.5km (1.55miles)per second — greater than Mach 7, the ABC reported.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Dr Malcolm Davis believes the most recent development will transform naval warfare and spark a ‘hemispheric battle space’.
‘This would see belligerents able to strike at each other at distances ranging in the hundreds of kilometres,’ Dr Davis told the ABC.
‘This would fundamentally change the nature of engagements as you could have adversaries being able to make precise strikes from afar for much less money.’
Dr Davis told 9 News the weapon would give China an advantage over US naval forces.
‘If China were to introduce this as an operational capability within the PLA Navy – perhaps on a future Chinese warship – it could be a game changer,’ he said.
The Haiyang Shan is part of China’s East Sea Fleet.
It’s not the first time photos of the hypersonic superweapon on the People’s Liberation Army Navy tank have emerged.
Leaked photos of the railgun on top the landing ship docked at a Wuchang shipyard in China’s central Hubei province first emerged almost a year ago by Twitter user Dafeng Cao.
The social media post claimed is a translation of an analysis from ‘the most well-known former PLAN officer,’ the EM gun is a ‘formal project approved by PLAN,’ with a 5-6 year timeline.
The Chinese military later confirmed it was working on the new weapons.
‘Long time no see, the railgun test ship is spotted undergoing sea trials these days,’ Dafeng Cao posted after the latest photos of the weapon at sea emerged.
Electromagnetic railguns have been described by the US Navy as a ‘true warfighter game changer.’
The missile is fired using kinetic energy, which eliminates the risks associated with keeping explosives on a ship.