U.S. intelligence believes China’s naval railguns will be operational and fully deployed by 2025. China has been testing a railgun on a naval ship since 2017.

China has claimed to have made a breakthrough with medium voltage integrated DC power. This is the key for their future navy. This is also what the US Navy needs to match.

China appears to have better basic electrical engineering and chose more pragmatic options for lower cost.

The power systems and low cost and simple construction is the key

Medium voltage (about 12000 volt) DC power distribution that is reliable and affordable is the key to having the power for futuristic technology like railguns and electromagnetic launchers.

The US tried to make super-advanced destroyers with a lot of electrical power but they are buggy and cost about 4 times more. The new Zumwalt destroyers cost about $7.5 billion each instead of $1.9 billion.

The key to 12 times the power is 12000 volt systems

The US has analyzed the use of medium voltage power distribution in order to affordable integrate electrical power on ships. US electrical engineers know what has to be done.

There was a 2015 presentation on medium voltage power for ships.

4000 amps is the practical limit for mechanical switches.
12000 DC volts appears a good target. 4000 amps per bus with 12000 DC volts means 96 Megawatts of power on 2 busses. This is compared to about 7.5 MW of power from other power systems on current US destroyers.

The second batch of Chinese Type 055 destroyers will likely feature railguns, starting in the 2020-2025 timeframe. A 32 megajoule railgun on the Type 055 destroyer will be able launch a ten-kilogram projectile about 124 nautical miles, with the impact energy of medium artillery. China will have power systems to direct 96 MW for two high power railguns that could fire shells at mach 7 at a cost of about $25,000 per shot. They will be able to have deep magazines of thousands of hypersonic shells. If the US has to match with missiles then a ship will have a hundred or so cruise missiles and they will cost almost $1.5 million per missile.

Nextbigfuture believes the US will get railgun technology sorted out and deployed by 2030. But the US has to sort out the electrical power distribution on ships and gets military suppliers to not charge insane prices to retrofit electrical systems.

China’s railgun navy by 2030

China could have 200+ ships with railguns and 200,000 hypersonic mach 7 shells.

The US Navy and Air Force would have to operate at ranges of 100+ to 200+ miles away from any major concentration of Chinese naval and land-based railguns. Until the US had matching railgun deployments.

The US does not have the luxury to waste budget by paying 5 to 20 times too much for military equipment and development.

US will lose military technology edge to China in two years

These are the reasons that former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said the US will lose its military technology edge to China in two years.

Work said Chinese President Xi Jinping has the goal of being able to successfully invade Taiwan by 2020 and 10 years after to that be the world’s leader in artificial intelligence.

China “wants to be a first mover” in A.I., incorporating the Internet of things, big data, robotics and machine learning.

The US Navy says they do not want to match China’s military technology moves but to go around them.

SOURCES- CNBC, USNI, Popular Science, MVDC Shipboard Power System Considerations for Electromagnetic Railguns by N. Doerry and J. Amy, Jr. (Naval Sea Systems Command), The Road to MVDC