There are two weapons in Armored Core that quads are almost never without (pre-AC4, at least): Grenade Launchers, and Railguns. We’ve already covered the ass-kicking abilities of the Grenade Launcher, so we’ll be focusing our attention on the latter.
The first thing most players will notice about equipping a railgun on their AC is its huge energy drain, unusually high even for an energy weapon. The second detail players will notice with the railgun is its sheer shot velocity. The railgun has arguably one of the fastest projectiles in the entirety of AC, and at ranges of 200-300 meters, once an enemy locks on and has a shot in the air, it is nearly impossible to dodge.
The AC:NX version of the railgun is favored heavily by quads due to another feature – the gun’s charge-up animation creates a short delay between the trigger pull and the actual shot. Clever pilots have exploited this fact by firing from behind cover, and using the delay to pop up, and release the actual shot, before ducking behind the safety of a wall.
By AC4, railguns became a staple for bipeds as well. And while they’re not quite on par with the grenade launcher or laser cannons’ ability to blow the opposition into little bits, few weapons can match the consistency that a railgun has at delivering bolts of searing, white-hot death at enemies at long range.
But precision aside, not even Armored Core’s series of railguns holds much whoop-ass when compared to a project the United States Navy has under works. By 2015, the USN hopes to deploy a new DD(X) class destroyer for its fleets. Officially known as the Zumwalt-class, these new boats will carry several innovations to its powerplant and electronic systems, along with an equally new railgun that’s intended to replace conventional missiles.
Railguns have several advantages compared to missiles and traditional ship guns: they’re far cheaper to operate (Each tomahawk missile costs roughly 750,000 USD), they don’t burden the ship with several tons of volatile explosives, and the slug’s hypersonic flight speed ensures little warning time for the enemy when a ship brings in the rain.
Instead of using conventional explosive warheads warheads, rail guns rely on pure brute force to do damage. A typical railgun slug travels at over mach 6, and at those speeds, even a 40-pound slug will literally hit like a meteor strike at targets up to 290 miles away. But even if death-by-meteor is an awesome-sounding way to destroy the enemy, the USN still has a long way to go.
The Navy has a fully functional test gun over at their Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, capable of throwing shots out to mach 8. The catch, however, is trying to find a way to supply such a powerful gun with sufficient electric power, and by connection, a capacitor small yet sturdy enough to discharge all that juice when it’s needed.
The test gun in particular needs 32 megajoules of power to fire, the kinetic energy equivalent of moving a 32-ton vehicle out to 160 miles per hour. With that much energy involved, you can theoretically flip over a 70-ton Abrams tank with a slug the size and weight of a beercan.
And even this test gun pales in comparison to the actual weapon the Navy plans to use for the Zumwalt-class – a planned 64-megajoule monster that will require six million amps of power to fire, and is also capable of firing up to six times a minute.
Aside from finding a capacitor that can discharge so much electrical power at once, another major problem the navy is tackling is the gun itself. Repeat firings will damage or even dislodge the barrel of the gun itself, and while a spare barrel can be easily be swapped at a test site, that’s hardly an option for a ship that may one day operate alone, in hostile waters.
In this case, we have to give creds to the USN’s prototype and planned weapon. While it is still a rough weapon that may take several years of development to perfect, it will still easily outgun that now puny-ass rail gun most AC’s tout to battle. So what if your rail gun can hit at 500 yards? The Navy’s gun can blast targets out to nearly 300 miles, and has a secondary fragmentation effect to boot.
Tell me – does you rail gun double as a gigantic armor-piercing shotgun that can destroy targets hundreds of miles away? No it doesn’t, but the Navy’s gun does. They win.