Japan has sent a defense official to the U.S. Navy to leverage on its experience for the development of a railgun, which uses electromagnetic force to fire bullets at high speeds, government sources said Tuesday.

The dispatch of the official from the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency is aimed at absorbing the know-how of the United States, which long researched railguns, to put the weapon into practical use as soon as possible.

The Defense Ministry-affiliated agency began the development of a railgun in fiscal 2016 and conducted the world's first offshore shooting test onboard a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel last year.

The SDF hopes that railguns, which cost less than conventional firearms that use gunpowder and whose projectiles are harder to intercept, will become a "game changer" that will change the strategic environment of warfare.

It expects to mount the weapon on vehicles and vessels for use in ground and anti-ship attacks as well as in missile interception.

But challenges remain over improving fire accuracy and making the weapon smaller.

The agency sent one technical official in a research role to a U.S. Navy-linked research institute in November last year. During the dispatch through this June, the official is expected to hear from people who were involved in railgun development and inspect facilities.

Japan will consider whether to dispatch another person after the official returns.

The U.S. Navy effectively gave up railgun development in 2021 despite spending more than a decade on it, due to changes in the strategic environment and budgetary constraints.

"There is much to learn because a lot of money has been invested in research and many prototypes have been made," a senior agency official said.