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The high-tech railgun uses electromagnetic energy to propel devastating rounds at more than seven times the speed of sound. Once only present in science fiction, the weapon requires massive amounts of power but its hugely destructive hypersonic projectiles have the potential for a long range and high accuracy. And China appears to have beaten both the United States and Russia to developing one of the fearsome superguns, CNBC reports.

The new weapon is a major addition to China’s arsenal and its development comes at a time of heightened tensions between the Asian superpower and the US.

Speculation Beijing was testing the technology was ignited in February 2018 when a picture circulating on social media appeared to show a Chinese navy amphibious assault ship armed with a prototype.

Just a month later, Chinese state media confirmed the huge cannon was an experimental railgun.

But according to a US intelligence report, China’s railgun has been undergoing testing since 2014, according to CNBC.

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Citing people with direct knowledge of the report, the news outlet said Washington believes the Chinese will complete field testing by 2023.

Unlike traditional guns, which use an explosive charge to propel their projectile, railguns utilise magnetic force.

The amount of power the weapons require has traditionally limited where they can operate.

But China says it has now developed a direct-current electrical system capable of powering the railgun.