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Israel’s breakthrough laser weapon can now stop missiles, drones and mortars says Defense Ministry

The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force/Released)
January 09, 2020

Israel’s military says it has successfully tested a laser interception system against incoming mortar shells, drones, and anti-tank missiles.

Israeli Gen. Yaniv Rotem, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development said Israel is among the leading countries in developing high-energy laser systems, the Jerusalem Post reported. The Israeli Defense Ministry has been working on the technology for over a decade and sees it as a viable means to intercept aerial weapons attacks.

Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett touted the breakthroughs and said: “we will add a laser sword when dealing with threats from the North or the South.”

“The enemies of Israel better not test our resolve or our abilities,” Bennett continued.

Prior efforts, by the Israeli government and others, to develop laser interception weapons over the years have not been successful.

Dubi Oster, the head of the Defense Ministry’s optronics R&D department, said the latest breakthrough to the laser technology came in the form of an algorithm that could combine multiple laser beams to form one strong beam.

The new development reportedly allows those lasers to intercept attacking weapons at greater ranges and through atmospheric disturbances like clouds and dust.

Rotem said the laser defense system could alleviate the need for numerous other missile interception systems.

“During a war, missile interceptors will at one point run out, but with this system, as long as you have electricity, you have a never-ending supply,” Rotem said.

Rotem also touted the technology for its cost-saving ability. He said that while the electricity required to power the laser does come at some cost, the ability for a laser to stop a missile would only come at a cost of a few dollars, as opposed to interceptor missiles that can cost thousands.

Israel currently uses the ‘Iron Dome’ system, which shoots down incoming enemy ordnance with its intercepting missiles. Israel has used that system to some effect in stopping rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip.

Israel reportedly now wants to adopt this laser interception technology on at least three platforms: a fixed ground-based laser system, a maneuverable laser platform for troops in the field and an aerial platform that can better intercept threats above cloud cover.

The U.S. military has also been experimenting with its own laser missile defense systems.

The Initial Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) is one potential 50-kilowatt laser that has been tested with the U.S. Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Teams.

The U.S. Air Force has also tested a laser system, known as SHiELD, intended to be fitted aboard aircraft and protect them from being shot down.