A prototype of an electromagnetic catapult and its payload. Photo: Handout
A prototype of an electromagnetic catapult and its payload. Photo: Handout

Chinese state media have revealed technological breakthroughs that could transform the concept of electromagnetic rockets from the realm of science fiction into reality and put them to work defending the nation’s meandering border in Tibet.

An array of cutting-edge rockets designed to be catapulted from fixed or portable launch pads by electromagnetic force are likely to undergo trials in the high-altitude wilderness of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The People’s Daily reported that Han Junli, a research fellow at a Beijing-based research center under the People’s Liberation Army, had been leading the development of the novel electromagnetic rocket artillery.

He is collaborating with Ma Weiming, a physician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering who is hailed as “the father of Chinese electromagnetic catapults.” According to rumors, these could be mounted on future Chinese aircraft carriers to launch fighters and heavier fixed-wing planes.

The newspaper cited Han as saying that he saw the urgent need of deploying rocket artillery in a slew of incidents and confrontations that had occurred along the Tibetan border in recent years.

Powerful rocket artillery, if deployed, could deter and fend off invading forces from hundreds of kilometers away without the need to marshal troops to traverse the rugged plateaus and mountains in Tibet known as the “roof of the world” for a face-to-face showdown.

Theoretically, a linear motor of electromagnets could be used to accelerate and catapult payloads up to high speeds.

It’s also said that electromagnetic rocket artillery could easily reach targets 200 kilometers away, at a lower cost with a higher hit rate than with conventional weaponry.

Rockets are not the only Chinese weaponry harnessing the power of electromagnetism. Another example is China’s formidable railguns, which have already piqued intensive interest in the West, as the PLA is the only military other than the US Army to have reported consistent successes in railgun firing experiments.

Railguns can fire projectiles at extremely high velocity, and are expected to be mounted on China’s next-generation 10,000-ton Type 055 cruisers in the future.

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