The military has for the first time fired a high-powered electromagnetic projectile from a ground artillery piece, raising Pentagon hopes for arming both the U.S. Army and Navy with advanced technological weaponry, Popular Mechanics reported Tuesday.

The tungsten projectile, known as the Hypervelocity Projectile, can reach Mach 3 or over 2,300 miles per hour when fired, faster than any round in service. It potentially could even reach supersonic speeds. Already a historic piece of firepower when fired from an Army howitzer, the projectile was developed for an even more powerful, high-tech piece of Navy weaponry that previously existed only in science-fiction - the railgun.

The railgun abandons traditional gunpowder-based firearms for what's essentially a large, overpowered electrical circuit. When two parallel, conductive rails are supplied with a massive current of electricity they produce magnetic fields. The missile connects the two rails, creating a powerful electromagnetic reaction and is propelled through the physics phenomenon called Lorentz force.

The Navy's version of the weapon produces a current as high as 3 to 5 million amps and requires some 25 megawatts to power, enough to supply nearly 19,000 home. It can fire a 25-pound projectile faster than Mach 7 or around 5,600 miles per hour over 100 nautical miles. The missile can pierce clean through seven plates of steel, leaving a 5-inch hole. But unlike the army's howitzer-adapted Hypervelocity Projectile, firing a railgun of this magnitude requires nothing less than a Zumwalt-class Destroyer ship and development issues have delayed a highly-anticipated sea demonstration of the weapon.

While the Navy's railgun has hit a number of setbacks due to cost and practicality, the idea of the weapon has existed for nearly a century. The first known evidence of an electromagnetic weapon appears in a 1922 U.S. patent for an electric cannon developed by French inventor Louis Octave Fauchon-Villeplee. Joachim Hansler of Nazi Germany's Ordinance Office reportedly designed a functioning electromagnetic cannon during the final days of World War II, but the state fell before the model was perfected.

Since then, the device has surfaced in countless works of fiction from the golden age of Sci-Fi in the 1950s to modern video games. Many of these depictions portray a futuristic handheld variant of the weapon such as the 2004 game "GoldenEye: Rogue Agent" and 2008's "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots," where it played an important role in the plot. A railgun was also famously featured 1996 action film "Eraser" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Caan.

While the Pentagon will not likely be issuing portable railguns to soldiers anytime soon, the Army's recent development means that electromagnetic projectiles could appear on the battlefield in the near future. The weapons are not only devastating in their speed, but at $25,000 per round are much cheaper than their explosive counterparts such as the Tomahawk or Harpoon, which can cost up to $1 million each. The U.S. Navy is not alone, however, China and Russia were reportedly developing their own version of the railgun, with Moscow reporting its latest successful test Friday.