The European Defence Agency (EDA), the defence branch of the EU, hosted the final meeting of the ‘Projectiles for Increased Long-range effects Using electroMagnetic railgun’ (PILUM) project on 28 September 2023.

Launched in March 2021, the EDA commissioned an in-depth feasibility study to investigate and assess the use of the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG) as a long-range artillery system with a budget of €1.5m ($1.57m).

EDA’s team have since been working on a disruptive concept for an electromagnetic railgun (EMRG): a future artillery system that will fire significantly higher projectile velocities and long-range effect (over 200km).

Besides research on EMRG and its projectile, the project also examined the integrability in terrestrial and naval platforms.

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By GlobalData

The PILUM consortium includes the French-German Research Institute of Saint-Louis as the leading EMRG expert in Europe; leading European defence companies: Nexter Systems & Munitions, Diehl-Defence and Naval Group; as well as Explomet and the Von Karman Institute.

In the final meeting, EDA partners focused on the main research topics studied within PILUM and the results obtained for each of the three components of the EMRG: the railgun, the hypersonic projectile and electric energy storage and conversion.

All seven partners from four European countries working together on this study agreed that significant advancements in the three key areas of electromagnetic artillery were made in these areas.

This progress sets the stage for the future of advanced electromagnetic weaponry. The achievements in the PILUM project serve as a strong foundation for the next maturation phase called THEMA (Technology for Electromagnetic Artillery) and launched under the European Commission’s European Defence Fund. THEMA’s goal is to prepare for the testing of an electromagnetic railgun on a firing range by 2028. 

Electromagnetic railgun components and their advancements

The PILUM project explored various energy supply ideas, such as capacitive and inductive energy concepts. The capacitive system demonstrated a 25% increase in energy density under specific operational conditions.

Another promising solution, the XRAM inductive energy concept, showed potential for storing magnetic energy efficiently, with ongoing work to address its technological challenges in the THEMA phase.

In addition, the railgun launcher’s critical components, exposed to extreme heat and high-speed friction, were protected with special wear-resistant materials, which significantly extended the railgun barrel’s lifespan.

The project also developed a concept for hypervelocity projectiles for speeds up to Mach 6. The performance of the projectile concept was extensively assessed at Mach 5 through wind tunnel experiments and computer simulations.