In what could be a giant leap forward for China, the country recently tested a type of electromagnetic gun being touted as superior to other conventional arms and will be pressed into duty for riot control.
Global Times reported that the electromagnetic gun demonstrated characteristics superior to conventional rifles, such as lesser noise, slight muzzle flash, and low recoil. Experts said that the technology signals a trend for future weaponry.
Lei Fengqiao, a worker at Chongqing Jianshe Industrial (Group) Co. Ltd, a division of the state-owned China South Industries Group Co. Ltd, said on a program telecast on China Central Television (CCTV) that the cannon employs nine coils to accelerate projectiles, which are held in a magazine beneath the coils.
Lei further emphasized that the electromagnetic gun-fired projectiles are shaped like coins instead of round bullets, as in other regular weaponry. That is because it is intended to control riots rather than kill people. Coin-shaped projectiles are easy to produce at a low cost and less likely to cause penetration damage.
According to the CCTV report, the weapon is also simple to store and transport because they don’t require gunpowder. The gun is reportedly powered by a lithium battery that is incorporated into it. A fully charged cell allows the gun to fire hundreds of bullets continuously before needing a quick recharge.
CHINA’s Portable Electromagnetic Gun:
Designed for riot control purposes, the Gun fires projectiles shaped like a Coin. Powered by built-in lithium battery, one full charge allows the gun to fire Hundreds of rounds consecutively before a fast recharge. #China #PLA #Gun pic.twitter.com/f8h8NZzhSg
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) April 4, 2023
The gun’s grip is positioned in the middle of the weapon to distribute the weight evenly, and the weapon’s front has three buttons that can be used to switch between shooting modes, alter power output, and turn the weapon on and off.
The highest rate of fire of the electromagnetic gun can reach several thousand rounds per minute, exceeding the rate of fire of conventional rifles, which are approximately 700 to 800 shots per minute.
The weapon gained attention after it debuted at the air show in Zhuhai in 2022. The electromagnetic pistol featured low noise, little muzzle flash, no smoke or bullet shells, and low recoil during a firing test in which it effortlessly smashed timber planks, beer bottles, and automobile windows, said CCTV.
According to Lei, electromagnetic launch technology, the development path for future weapons, is characterized by excellent stealth. Chinese engineers are focusing on stealth technology in a big way to prepare for modern and technologically sophisticated combat.
Although Beijing has positioned this gun and technology purely for riot control, it could also be used for combat.
For instance, a previous report in US media suggested that China tested the warship-mounted railgun that works on electromagnetic energy instead of gunpowder. The report said this would allow it to strike a target 124 miles away at speeds up to 1.6 miles per second. It also added that the testing would be completed by 2023, and the railgun would be ready for warfare by 2025.
Further, an unnamed Beijing-based military analyst told Global Times electromagnetic launch technology could be used for lethal weaponry like portable guns and large-caliber artillery. Moreover, the expert suggested it could also be used for air defense due to its fast-firing rate.
While the development and testing of this novel technology have been projected as a breakthrough, China may not be the only country working to develop this technology. Its rivals, Japan and the United States are treading close, while Russia may have already used it in combat.
Electromagnetic Weapons For The Future
In July 2021, the Pentagon announced that it had halted its railgun program to free up resources for hypersonic weapon research.
However, that same year, a company started taking pre-orders for what it described as “the world’s first and only handheld Gauss rifle” for US$3,375 per piece. It is a portable gun that works on electromagnetism. While different from a railgun that propels its bullets by generating a field between current-conducting rails, it works on essentially the same principle.
On offer since, the GR-1 Anvil Gauss rifle is reported to be able to fire various metal bullets because of its use of strong magnets. Gauss rifles, also known as coilguns, employ electrified coils to produce a magnetic field that propels ferromagnetic projectiles at high speeds.
The GR-1, according to ArcFlash, has an “advanced capacitor charging technology” that enables its 25v lithium-ion battery to fast charge the coils, allowing the gun to shoot at full charge every three seconds and more quickly at weaker charge levels.
Besides the US, China’s regional rival, Japan, is also working on developing electromagnetic weapon systems. Last year, the Ministry of Defense of Japan announced the development of an electromagnetic warfare system to counter enemy hypersonic missiles. However, Tokyo’s weapon of choice is a railgun, not a portable gun.
A railgun can target ships, missiles, and aircraft. It is an electromagnetic weapon that can fire projectiles at Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound. Japan wants to combine railgun technology with long-range missiles to create a powerful interception system.
Railguns are capable of firing interceptors at different speeds. Operators can change the speed of an interceptor by adjusting the amount of electrical power they utilize. Moreover, railguns are also stealthy due to the small size of their “bullets.”
While the US and Japan are still developing electromagnetic weapons and China is moving steadily on the testing phase, Russia is said to have employed an actual electromagnetic weapon in combat against Ukraine.
In July last year, state news agency TASS reported — citing some unnamed sources — that Russian armed forces employed state-of-the-art electromagnetic weapons for the first time in a special military operation in Ukraine to stun enemy drones.
“The Russian Stupor electromagnetic systems were employed against Ukrainian drones for the first time in the Ukraine special operation,” the source said. The report noted that the weapon was used successfully and was very easy to use.
The source explained then, “By aiming at a target and simply pressing the button, the Stupor deadens the control signal between an operator and a drone. The Ukrainian UAV is neutralized and grounded at a required place. The need for these portable counter-drone systems became obvious in the wake of a large number of drones and various small copters used by the Ukrainian military.”