Various of Publications/Newsletters from government agencies like BARC and DRDO’s ARDE, HEMRL etc. is indicative of that Railgun research in India was really started long back in the mid 80s or early 90s.
Two ARDE publications in the DRDO website dating back to the April [Ref-1] and July [Ref-2] of 1994 clearly writes that:
1. “A railgun using electromagnetic propulsion was developed to launch hypervelocity projectiles.”
2. “A 240 kJ , low inductance capacitor bank operating at 5 kV powered the railgun.”
3. “Launchers and projectiles were designed and developed for this purpose.”
4.”A simulation code was developed to optimise the performance of the railgun.”
5. “Control and instrumentation facilities were set up along with a computer-based data acquisition system for measurement and analysis.”
6. “The capacity to launch projectiles of 3-3.5 g weight to a velocity of more than 2.00 km/s was demonstrated.”
The articles then goes into details including inner workings, mathematical details, test details, and results of the already developed prototypes etc.
So, clearly enough, if they already had working prototypes of Railgun and were testing it in the time of publication of those two articles then they obviously started working on it at least 5 to 10 years before from the publication date.
Another DRDO publication of October 2003 originating from HEMRL[Ref-3] indicates that they are researching on the fields of nonconventional concepts of solid projectile propulsion such as Liquid Gun Propellant, Rail Gun, Coil Gun, Electrothermal Gun, Electrothermal Chemical Gun along with Conventional Energetic Solid Gun propellants.
So, as per the article, its not only Railgun which they are working on but other kind of alternate projectile propulsion also including Coil Gun. Their inner working concepts, properties, pros and cons are also mentioned briefly.
But is it only DRDO going it alone? No other govt agencies involved?
An article in the 2015 foundation day spacial issue newsletter[Ref-4, p48] from BARC by Dr. T.C Kaushik from BARC’s Applied Physics Division itself writes that:
“In our lab, we have developed a 60cm long; 6mm square bore Rail Gun. The rails consist of two 12×12 mm2 ETC grade copper bars. A 4mm deep step was introduced on either side of the rails to get a bore size of 6mm x 6mm. The rail gun is fired by a 38 kJ capacitor bank with peak current of 150kA with a quarter cycle rise time 0.12ms. A velocity of 3.1 km/s has been obtained which matches well with theoretically expected value of 3.2 km/s. Another 200 kJ capacitor bank has been commissioned for enhancing the velocity further with a new rail gun set up.”
The interesting part of that BARC article is that it do not mentions development date. It seems the development was done in the past but on request for the spacial issue he wrote it in 2015.
Its realy confusing which agency doing what. Are both the DRDO and BARC carrying development of Railgun separately? But why separately? Its wastage of resources and hard to believe also because they are government agencies and not private.
So the best logical assumption would be they both are working together given that BARC is already experienced in vary high energy pulse power generation be it a capacitor bank, marks generator or a explosive based generator e.g. Explosively Pumped Flux Compression Generator (EPFCG) because of their KALI, LINAC and LIA programs [Ref-5]. They are doing it for decades. More precisely:
“The pulsed power program has been started in BARC since 1970s, it was developed for fusion related research(till 1980s) and then focus was shifted to NEMP(nuclear electro-magnetic pulse) simulation, hardening and surge suppression. Pulse power systems were developed for generation of high power microwave and Flash X-rays for strategic applications.” [Ref-5]