Imagine a defence system that can intercept drones, mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles, for the price of a cup of coffee.
“This may sound like science-fiction, but it’s real,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, of the new laser weapon undergoing testing.
“The Iron Beam’s interceptions are silent, they’re invisible and they only cost around $3.50” apiece, he added.
That’s right — three bucks and 50 cents.
As opposed to the much more expensive, but capable, Iron Dome system, which costs approximately $100,000–$150,000 per interception.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s powerful laser has many advantages, including the ability to effectively intercept long-range threats at high altitudes regardless of weather conditions and the ability to defend vast areas.
Obviously, if they can get this new laser fine-tuned, it could revolutionize the way military and civilian sites are defended.
Bennett said the system would be deployed “within a year,” first experimentally and then operationally in the south.
“And this will enable us, as the years advance, to surround Israel with a wall of lasers that will protect us from missiles, rockets, UAVs and other threats,” he said at a conference put on by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.
Israel considers Iran’s nuclear program its No. 1 concern.
Though Tehran has consistently denied seeking to build a nuclear bomb, tensions have risen as the West resumed talks in Vienna on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal to curb the country’s nuclear program, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel already has a multi-layered missile defence system in place, with the well-known Iron Dome system for shooting down rockets and some cruise missiles, David’s Sling for cruise missiles and some ballistic missiles, and Arrow for ballistic missiles — potentially hypersonic ones with the Arrow-4 upgrade – in place, The EurAsian Times reported.
It also claims its Iron Dome system has a 90% interception rate.
These systems are expensive, however, with interceptor missiles costing tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars each — to defend against rockets fired from the Gaza Strip that are a fraction of the cost, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The laser system, meanwhile, costs just a few dollars per pulse.
Last week, Israel’s Iron Beam successfully intercepted mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles in recent tests, US News reported.
In a video released by the ministry, the laser-based system can be seen intercepting a rocket, a mortar, and a drone at an undisclosed location in southern Israel’s Negev desert, during March of this year.
According to the head of the ministry’s research and development team, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, the tests were conducted at “challenging” ranges and timings, The Times of Israel reported.
“The use of a laser is a ‘game changer’ and the technology is simple to operate and proves to be economically viable,” he said.
Iron Beam, which is being developed with the Rafael weapons manufacturer, is not meant to replace other air defense systems, but to supplement and complement them, shooting down smaller projectiles and leaving larger ones for the more robust missile-based batteries, The Times of Israel reported.
Unlike standard weapons, a modern laser weapon may shoot indefinitely as long as it has electrical power, never running out of ammunition.
The downside of a laser system is that it does not function well in times of low visibility, including heavy cloud cover or other inclement weather.
For that reason, the ministry intends to also mount the system on an airplane, which would help get around this limitation by putting the system above the clouds, though that is still a few more years off.
In an interview with Globes, IDF General Staff Planning Division head Brig.-Gen. Eyal Harel said the system is already at a very advanced stage.
“We succeeded in getting somewhere no one else in the world has managed to reach,” he said.
“The next stage will be miniaturization, reducing production costs for the ground systems, and also making it airborne,” Harel said. “That’s where the big defence companies are involved. Laser is the next thing — it really is Star Wars.”
Israel is not the only country experimenting with lasers.
The US Navy announced on April 13 that during an Office of Naval Research test in February, an all-electric, high-energy laser weapon (Lockheed Martin’s Layered Laser Defense) was employed for the first time to neutralize a target simulating a subsonic cruise missile in flight, The EurAsian Times reported.
Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
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