Power Systems for Electrothermal Guns
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Electrothermal (ET) and combustion-augmented plasma (CAP) guns utilize high levels of pulse power to initiate and control the interior ballistic process. A 9 MJ kinetic-energy class gun will require megajoules of energy delivered at a peak power of about 5 GW. This paper discusses power supply options and issues for experimental laboratory systems and integrated weapon systems. Laboratory power supplies must be versatile enough to produce a variety of pulse shapes as required for the development of the various gun/working fluid concepts. Most of the large existing power supplies were designed for electromagnetic (EM) guns and require modification to power ET-type guns. Pulse-forming networks based on capacitive- and inductive-energy storage techniques are discussed. Power supplies for an integrated ET weapon system must address prime power and intermediate energy storage in addition to the power conditioning equipment that directly drives the gun. The component options and issues are therefore very dependent upon mission requirements. High-energy-density batteries or high-speed flywheels can be used to store energy. Pulse-forming networks using high-energy.-density capacitors can be used to directly power the gun as well as high frequency, rectified alternators, or compensated pulsed alternators (compulsators). State of the art (SOTA) of components, potential for growth, options, and issues are discussed. In addition, power systems are sized using the current SOTA and near-term technology for ET guns with efficiencies of 0.3, 1, 5, and 10 for a mission of interest. It appears that an appropriate power supply for driving an ET gun weapon can be developed. Since there are a number of options, the technology does not hinge on the success or failure of any single component. However, a great deal of work remains to be done to evaluate the options, define the requirements, and implement the technology.