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Fair Gets U.S. Army to Fund Electromagnetic Guns -- with "peanuts"

Now fully aware of this ominous history, nevertheless, Harry Fair had fallen in love with electromagnetic guns.

His problem now was that he had money to spend on gun research, but he didn’t have the right to spend it on nutty ideas such as electromagnetic guns.

Opportunity finally struck when the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Advanced Technology asked Fair to brief the Dec. 1978 Technology Trends Colloquium on the future of chemical propulsion. This was a big deal, as the attendees included the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and three- and four-star generals.

In preparation for the Colloquium, Fair renamed his “Nutty Ideas” project "The National Advisory Panel on Electromagnetic Propulsion." Fair told the panel that chemical gun propulsion had reached a dead end. Instead, he reported, EML held promise for artillery, aircraft launchers, missile defense, fusion energy, and space launch.

Fair’s pitch was somewhat successful. Over the next two years he says he was able to fund EML research with “peanuts – $100K or two” each for the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory at M.I.T. (for Kolm’s mass driver), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Westinghouse R&D Center in Pittsburgh (where Marshall was now working), and his own Picatinny Arsenal. He also organized a biannual IEEE EML symposium, with the first in 1980. Proceedings appear in the IEEE Transactions on Magnetics.  “This body of research is what the Chinese and all new folks to the field now use as the basic resource,” says Fair.

One of those who read the proceedings of the first symposium was Wang Ying of China’s Ordnance Engineering College, and this launched him, too, on the crusade of a lifetime.

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       © 2013 Carolyn Meinel