posted on Sep, 12 2003 @ 02:58 PM
"Ion cannons" do not fire solid projectiles per se.
Ion Cannons refer to a charged particle weapon of some kind. This is where a stream of high energy charged particles are fired at very high velocity
by a magnetic field of the opposite polarity. The relativisitc velocity of impact along with the often very high energy charge load is what does the
damage from these weapons.
Charged particle weapons would have very limited use on the ground as they would dissipate thier charge as they are fired through the air, and would
basically use up the energy load ionizing the surrounding air rather than on the target.
Rail Guns refer to an electromagnetic cannon, firing a solid projectile using electromagnetic propulsion. In this case, the cannon "barrel" is often
2 conductors charged to very high voltage, and the projectile acts to complete the circuit. When the circuit completes, it forms a very high
electromagnetic field which fires the projectile at velocities approaching relativisitic (low end) velocities.
To date, there have been no attempts to use conventional high explosive warheads in rail guns because A, all such rail guns have been of such small
diameter as to preclude the use of any useful amount of chemical explosive, and B, because the kinetic energy developed at the ultra high velocities
is in excess of what can be delivered by a chemical explosive.
To my knowledge, the "melting" of the projectile in railguns is a function of the high voltage arc across the projectile, and not due to the high
velocity. I would believe that a properly constructed projectile, with sufficient insulation between the conductor and the main projectile body, would
allow the projectile to remain intact for the entire trip. In this case, assuming a projectile large enough to house the warhead, it would be feasible
to fire a small tactical sized nuclear warhead.