Israel unveils 'breakthrough' laser defense system
A computer-generated mockup of a proposed laser-based air defense system being developed by the Defense Ministry. (Photo: Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry's Research and Development Directorate revealed a breakthrough in laser technology on Wednesday, saying it is expected to complement the country's Iron Dome anti-missile system.

The new laser-based system is built for the interception of rocket, mortar, and artillery threats, aerial drones and anti-tank missiles. It will undergo testing in the coming months with the goal of having it operational within a year and a half.

The new technology was unveiled by the directorate chief Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, who said it would alter Israel's ability to defend itself strategically.

"We are entering a new age of energy warfare in the air, land and sea. The research and development investments made by the [Defense Ministry] in recent years have placed the State of Israel among the leading countries in the field of high-energy laser systems. Throughout the year 2020 we will conduct a demo of our capabilities," Rotem said.

"Investments by the Defense Ministry in recent years have positioned Israel among the leading countries in [the field of] high-power lasers," he added.

The laser-based interception, which is silent and invisible, is based on electric laser technology rather than the chemically based lasers used up to now.

The cost is less than 10 shekels (about $3.50) per interception, in contrast with Iron Dome, which costs about 170,000 shekels ($49,000) per interception.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who is a former defense minister, addressed the breakthrough on Wednesday.

"I congratulate the defense establishment on developing a laser system for intercepting rocket launches and anti-aircraft missiles, a project approved during my tenure as defense minister. I am glad that the development of the system was done quickly and efficiently and that the project was not 'buried' like the Northern Protection Program I initiated, which was frozen when I resigned as Minister of Defense," Lieberman wrote on Twitter.

As a result of the technological breakthrough, the Defense Ministry has launched three programs for the development of high-energy laser demo systems in cooperation with defense industries, Rafael and Elbit Systems:

  • Development of a demo ground-based laser system to complement the capabilities of the Iron Dome (an additional layer to the air defense array
  • Development of a maneuver platform-mounted laser system to defend troops in the field
  • Development of a laser demo system mounted on an air platform to intercept threats above cloud covers and for the defense of wide areas

On Wednesday night, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett lauded the ministry's achievement.

"The Israeli brain continues to lead with breakthrough innovation. The laser project will make the defense establishment deadlier, more powerful and more advanced," he said.

"In addition to our existing war tools, we will add a laser sword against the threats, in the north and in the south," Bennett said in a statement.

Last Thursday, meanwhile, the Israel Police unveiled a new laser system designed to intercept airborne incendiary threats sent from the Gaza Strip. According to Channel 12 News, although the system is operational a deploy date was not immediately given.

Dubbed Light Blade, the system is said to resemble Iron Dome in its technology. It will tackle incendiary balloons and kites, which have started countless fires in the southern border vicinity communities over the past two summers, as well as drones.

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