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Japan sends defense official to US Navy for railgun development

Japan has sent a defense official to the US Navy to leverage his experience to develop a railgun that uses electromagnetic force to fire bullets at high speed, government sources said on Tuesday.

The deployment of the official from the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency is aimed at absorbing the know-how of the United States, which has long been researching railguns, in order to put the weapon into practice as quickly as possible.

The Department of Defense affiliated agency began developing a railgun in fiscal 2016 and last year conducted the world’s first offshore firing test aboard a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship.

The SDF hopes that railguns, which cost less than conventional firearms that use gunpowder and whose projectiles are more difficult to intercept, will become a “game changer” that will alter the strategic environment of warfare.

It expects to mount the weapon on vehicles and vessels for use in surface and anti-ship attacks and in intercepting missiles.

But challenges remain over improving firing accuracy and making the weapon smaller.

The agency sent a technical officer in a research role to a research institute affiliated with the US Navy in November last year. During the deployment through June, the official is expected to hear from people involved in railgun development and inspect facilities.

Japan will consider whether to send another person after the official return.

The US Navy effectively abandoned railgun development in 2021, despite spending more than a decade on it, due to changes in the strategic environment and budget constraints.

“There is a lot to learn because a lot of money has been invested in research and many prototypes have been made,” said a senior agency official.



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