Military expert Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN that if the reports were accurate, the weapon was likely to be “a year or two away from being operational.”
“They’ll say it’s operational — what that mean the operational evaluation has started, (and they’re) testing it under more realistic conditions,” he said. “Typically you’re looking at a year before being deployed.”
Schuster said it was significant that China appeared to be transitioning from copying foreign weapon designs to “developing their own” technology.
“It also tells you (that China) is no longer 10-15 years behind (the US)… They are now approaching parity with the west in terms of weapons development,” he added.
Technological sea change
Railgun technology, which uses electromagnetic force to send projectiles up to 125 miles at 7.5 times the speed of sound, is cheaper and more accurate than traditional gunpowder-based methods.
Railgun projectiles also don’t need explosive warheads — they do their damage with sheer speed.
“(Railguns) give you more firepower, more range, (and they can be better) guided, as you control acceleration in the barrel,” Schuster added.
The device, developed by Chinese arms giant China North Industries Group Corporation, better known as NORINCO, is approximately 5 to 6 meters (17 to 20 feet) long, according to Wei Dongxu, the quoted analyst.
While smaller, the Chinese bomb is similar in capability to the US’ GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs.”