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China Is Transforming Its Artillery Into Big Superguns

by Aakash Sharma

China Is Transforming Its Artillery Into Big Superguns

December 20, 2020

A US intelligence agency reported in January that China is in the final stages of launching the most advanced weapon system ever. It is all set for testing ‘magnetized plasma artillery’ as a part of its efforts to upgrade the Chinese military equipment. If successful, Chinese military will become the world’s first to possess artillery capabilities that could fire rounds at much higher speeds than of the existing Mach 6 railgun, with a target strike range of over 100 km. This will give China a major power boost over the world’s top military powers.

The Chinese military is preparing to test magnetic plasma cannons capable of firing hypervelocity rounds at speeds up to six times faster than the speed of sound! Military scientists in China are exploring the theory that a thin layer of magnetized plasma in the barrel can reduce friction and provide insulation, which can increase the speed and range of the gun.

How will it work?

The Chinese military patent explains how the state-of-the-art coating could theoretically enhance the artillery’s power.

First, a magnetic field will be created using an external magnetic field generator and a coating of magnetized material to create a magnetic field inside the barrel. Then, when the barrel is ignited, the heat and excessive pressure inside the discharge tube will ionize portions of the gas, converting it into plasma and forming a thin protective layer of magnetized plasma along the inner wall of the barrel.

Scientists and developers believe that plasma will reduce the thermal and abrasion insulation, expanding the strength and range of the cannon, without compromising the barrel’s core integrity or affecting the overall life of the weapon. Magnetic plasma sure sounds like a science fiction story, but it is reality viable enough to be explored by China.

If the experiment is successful, the coating could easily be installed on tanks and self-propelled guns. This will make the weaponry more mobile and easy use than the existing experimental electromagnetic railguns, which, by the way, are simultaneously being tested at the sea. According to Chinese media reports this concept has already been tested on certain tanks.

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China is on its way to become one of the most advanced militaristic powers of the world.

Innovation and Adaptation

Unlike the naval railgun, which is a linear motor device that uses electromagnetic power for sending high-speed projections from ships, magnetized plasma cannon is a renewal of conventional Chinese military cannons. Chinese military experts speculate that the improvement could expand the traditional 155-mm self-propelled howitzer’s range from 30-50 km to 100 km.

But China is not without opposition in this ‘arms race’. The U.S. military has, like always, maintained its undeterred stance of not being outgunned by its major competitors in the world. The U.S. Army is now working to increase the range of its artillery, pushing to strike targets 70 km away in hopes of eventually being able to fire on enemies 1,000 km away. It is working on combating near-equitable threats, which primarily might arise from China and Russia. The new Extended Range Cannon Artillery by the US military has already doubled the reach of its traditional artillery machinery, firing rounds out to 62 km long distances.

Image 3
Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a visit related to coronavirus vaccine research at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing on March 2, 2020. Xinhua/Ju Peng

Arms Race 21st Century

This arms race has given a new boost to the global military competition, resonating rightly with the “Space Race” of the Cold War era, when the Soviet Union was the key competitor for the US. Advancements in technology are the wonders of our times, and what these militaristic advancements will bring for the world remains to be witnessed. 

What is your take on constant military upgrades and global militaristic competition? Tell us in the comments below.

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