The new system will undergo testing in the coming months with the goal of having it operational within a year and a half, replacing Israeli’s current Iron Dome anti-missile system.
The laser-based system is aimed to be used against Qassam rockets, such as those that have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, as well as against mortar shells, anti-tank missiles and drones. Laser-based interception is silent and invisible while costing less than 10 shekels (about $3.50) per interception, in contrast with the Iron Dome, which costs about 170,000 shekels ($49,000) per interception and makes a very distinct sound when in use.
“We are entering a new era of ‘energy combat’ in the air, on land and at sea,” the head of the Defense Ministry’s weapons development administration, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem said. “Investments by the Defense Ministry in recent years have positioned Israel among the leading countries in [the field of] high-power lasers.”
The Defense Ministry has actually been working on high-power laser technology for years, yet the significant progress was made only after a collaborative effort involving the Defense Ministry, Israeli defence firms Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Elbit Systems and members of the academic community. The system is based on electric laser technology rather than the chemically based lasers that have been in use up to now.
Before Israel, US ships were the only vehicles in the world that have deployed such a laser-based military system, but it has proved effective only on relatively easy targets, such as rubber dinghies, and at short ranges.
The Israeli developers claim they created technology to focus and stabilize the laser beams over distances overcoming atmospheric disturbance. That led to the development of effective interception technology capable of providing a new layer of defence for Israel on land, at sea and in the air.
“[The system] would reduce dependence on intelligence or the need to investigate the threat to know what it is and how to act against it,” a defence source told Haaretz.
The military hopes to deploy the system in both the north and south of the country once the tests prove it is operational and ready for use