General Atomics is best known for its Predator and Reaper drones, but where Naval warfare technology is concerned it has something equally futuristic in the works: its Blitzer Railgun program.
Railguns are electromagnetic projectile launchers that accelerate their payloads -- which could be anything from an aircraft to an artillery round -- by carefully manipulating an electromagnetic current running the length of two parallel rails. The Office of Naval Research has long researched railguns as potential future replacements for its naval surface guns, as they launch projectiles on flatter trajectories to much greater distances with far more devastating force. In U.S. Navy tests, railguns have launched projectiles at speeds in excess of 1.5 miles per second, and that's really just the beginning of what railguns could eventually do.
While railguns aren't quite ready for service -- aside from being too energy intensive, the technology isn't completely reliable just yet -- General Atomics brought a prototype to Sea-Air-Space simply to show off how far they've come with both launcher and projectile design. But General Atomics isn't the only defense company heavily into the railgun race. BAE Systems has also developed railgun prototypes for the Navy, and Boeing's Phantom Works has developed precision sabot projectiles for railguns to launch.
The lull in Apple announcements isn't helping.