WASHINGTON — China tested the world’s most powerful naval gun earlier this month, and it is expected to be ready for warfare by 2025, according to people with direct knowledge of a U.S. intelligence report.
China’s railgun was first seen in 2011 and underwent testing in 2014, according to the people, who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity.
Between 2015 and 2017, the weapon was calibrated to strike at extended ranges, increasing its lethality. By December 2017, the weapon was successfully mounted on a warship and began at-sea testing, a feat no other nation has accomplished. The Chinese are expected to complete at-sea testing by 2023.
The development comes at a moment when tensions between China and the U.S. are already high, underscored by crucial trade talks that were scheduled to move to Washington on Wednesday.
Railguns use electromagnetic energy instead of gunpowder to propel rounds, and China’s is capable of striking a target 124 miles away at speeds of up to 1.6 miles per second, according to the people who have knowledge of the intelligence report. For perspective, a shot fired from Washington could reach Philadelphia in under 90 seconds.
Railguns have long appeared on Russian, Iranian and U.S. military wish lists as cost-effective weapons that give navies the might of a cannon with the range of a precision-guided missile.