DAHLGREN, Va. – The Navy dedicated and named its electromagnetic railgun lines in honor of two public servants who envisioned, nurtured, and laid the foundation for the U.S. Navy’s Electromagnetic Railgun Program at a ceremony held in their honor, Feb. 22.
Posters and plaques commemorating the naming of the railgun lines for retired Adm. James Hogg and Dr. Hans Mark were unveiled at the event and will be on permanent display to honor their efficacy and vision as the Navy continues working to push this revolutionary warfighting capability forward.
“These visionary men had the confidence that we could deliver here at Dahlgren, and we appreciate your support,” said Don McCormack, executive director for the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. “We are forever in your debt for your guidance and support. We have solved many challenges and the folks here have exceeded our expectations in addressing those technical challenges.”
McCormack and Capt. Godfrey “Gus” Weekes, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) commanding officer, told the audience comprising senior military and civilian leaders as well as the relatives and friends of the two men, that their vision and dedication to explore the warfighting advantages of the game-changing technology while advocating it to the Navy’s top leaders was pivotal in gaining the initial funding necessary to demonstrate its feasibility.
“This is a very significant day in history for our nation, our military, and the Navy,” said Weekes. “It is especially significant as this year Dahlgren Division celebrates 100 years of innovation. We are extremely honored that the names of Admiral Hogg and Dr. Mark will be permanently associated with the electromagnetic railgun lines here at Dahlgren. Their vision has contributed to our Navy’s ability to bolster our nation’s defense posture.”
For over 20 years, Hogg and Mark — both with long and distinguished careers including top government and military positions — collaborated and advocated for the technology while mentoring Navy leadership, scientists, and engineers.
“Like Jefferson and Adams, Admiral Hogg and Dr. Mark established a regular correspondence about the various aspects of the railgun and its potential for naval warfare,” said McCormack.
Their work together brought the railgun concept from an abstract theory to the tangible reality before them as they toured the railgun lines with the other visitors at the NSWCDD Electromagnetic Railgun Facility. Moreover, the two met frequently with the Chief of Naval Operations’ Strategic Studies Group (SSG) — discussing various aspects of warfighting — especially the high potential for the railgun.
“Directed energy technologies like the railgun are the future of naval warfare as they provide superior lethality and greater economy than existing weapons,” Weekes added. “In the case of the railgun, this translates into an ability to launch projectiles at speeds that exceed the capability of conventional gun technology.”
While engaged in hands-on railgun research for the Institute of Advanced Technology (IAT) at the University of Texas, Mark began advising the Navy on its promising Electromagnetic Railgun Program in 2001. At the time, the institute was the center of railgun research in the United States.
Mark — former Secretary and Undersecretary of the Air Force as well as the former director of the National Reconnaissance Office — introduced young railgun leaders from NSWCDD to key Pentagon decision-makers.
Hogg served as the Director of the SSG from 1995-2013 where he actively explored and conceptualized the future of naval warfare. During that time, a number of the annual SSG studies examined the potential of the electromagnetic railgun from multiple perspectives.
“Dr. Mark worked closely with the SSG on various aspects of warfighting — propulsion, directed energy, and most significantly — railgun,” said Hogg as he gave his keynote speech, crediting the pioneers of the railgun effort. “Mark believed deeply in the ability of smart and dedicated engineers to overcome the challenges. I can tell you from personal observation that every time Navy leadership had technical questions and wondered about the SSG’s work on the railgun, they would go to Dr. Hans Mark to get the bottom line answer they were looking for in terms of the technical soundness of this program. Hans came through every time.”
NSWCDD engineers briefed the visitors on the hypervelocity projectile — a next-generation, guided projectile capable of completing multiple missions for gun systems such as the Navy 5-inch, 155mm — and future railguns.
Hogg gave an in-depth, historical account of the technical challenges solved time after time as the technology advanced. “What you saw today,” recalled Hogg as he spoke to the audience, “is the hypervelocity projectile – it’s the next generation of what the — SSG was proposing.”
The retired admiral recounted former CNO Adm. Jay Johnson’s support for the electric drive with an integrated power system (IPS) networked across the ship that can, “generate enough electrical energy to propel a projectile 300 miles and beyond.” IPS provides for all of a ship's electrical needs, including propulsion and ship service loads.
The Navy’s first combatant ship with an electric drive integrated power system is the guided missile destroyer DDG 1000 USS Zumwalt, commissioned two years ago.
“Zumwalt was built for railgun,” said Hogg. “The SSG’s efforts at railgun conceptual development were completed in 2001 — their mission accomplished.”
A few years later, railgun would become a funded program at the science and technology level of development supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).
“The ability to do the things you just explained to us is really fantastic,” said Mark as he addressed Hogg during his brief speech. “We are now in a period of stress and, therefore, the military services and the weapons that we make have to be improved. This is the story of railgun. I am very pleased and honored to be with all of you.”
“Just the thought of this recognition is both exhilarating and humbling. Exhilarating because of your strong support since the whole idea started 10-12 years ago. Humbling because it is not about me,” said Hogg as he named early advocates and pioneers of the electromagnetic railgun as well as, “150 SSG members collaborating in creative thought for five years who really made it possible, which means it’s all about the SSG team.” He added, “I thank the SSG, NAVSEA, ONR, Navy leadership, railgun scientists and engineers wherever you may be. I thank all of you most genuinely.”