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MARAUDER (Magnetically accelerated ring to achieve ultrahigh directed energy and radiation) is, or was, a United States Air Force Research Laboratory project concerning the development of a coaxial plasma railgun. It is one of several United States Government efforts to develop plasma-based projectiles. The first computer simulations occurred in 1990, and its first published experiment appeared on August 1, 1993.
The first MARAUDER experiment was motivated by RACE, or the Ring Accelerator Experiment, which took place in 1991 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The ultimate goal of the MARAUDER program was to accelerate highly dense toroids containing plasma to high speeds. Such a system could be used for “hypervelocity projectiles,” x-ray production, and electrical power amplification. The stated goals of the program included studying the “formation, compression, and acceleration of magnetized plasma rings.”
Specifically, the objective of the program was the acceleration of a toroid of 0.5-2.0 mg plasma to a kinetic energy level on the order of megajoules using a 5-10 MJ coaxial gun design.
In 1993, the Phillips Laboratory developed a coaxial plasma gun capable of accelerating 1–2 mg of plasma by up to 1010g in a toroid of 1 meter in diameter. The toroids are similar to spheromaks, but differ in that an inner conductor is used to accelerate the plasma and that confinement behavior results from interactions of the toroid with its surrounding atmosphere. It utilized the Shiva Star capacitor bank to satisfy the large energy requirements that were needed.
The plasma projectiles would be shot at a speed expected to be 3000 km/s in 1995 and 10,000 km/s (3% of the speed of light) by 2000. A shot has the energy of 5 pounds of TNT exploding. Doughnut-shaped rings of plasma and balls of lightning exploded with devastating thermal and mechanical effects when hitting their target and produced pulse of electromagnetic radiation that could scramble electronics, the energy would shower the interior of the target with high-energy x-rays that would potentially destroy the electronics inside.
As of 1993 the project appeared to be in the early experimental stages. The weapon was able to produce doughnut-shaped rings of plasma and balls of lightning that exploded with devastating thermal and mechanical effects when hitting their target and produced pulse of electromagnetic radiation that could scramble electronics. The project's initial success led to it becoming classified, and only a few references to MARAUDER appeared after 1993. No information about the fate of the project has been published after 1995.
- Plasma railgun#Examples
- Sovinec, C. R. (1990). "Phase 1b MARAUDER computer simulations". IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science. 22 (16).
- Dengan, J. H.; et al. (1993-08-01). "Compact toroid formation, compression, and acceleration". Physics of Fluids B. 5 (8): 2938–2958. Bibcode:1993PhFlB...5.2938D. doi:10.1063/1.860681.
- McLean, H. S. (1991). Ring Accelerator Experiment (RACE). Plasma Science, 1991. IEEE Conference Record - Abstracts. p. 166. doi:10.1109/PLASMA.1991.695662. ISBN 978-0-7803-0147-4.
- Jane's Defence Weekly 29 July 1998
- "Unfriendly Fire". Archived from the original on February 23, 2007.