Israel’s Defense Ministry has announced that it has made a technological breakthrough in the development of lasers to intercept a variety of aerial threats, including against rockets and anti-tank guided missiles.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday evening that new laser technology “makes the security apparatus more lethal, more powerful, and more advanced.”

Speaking about this new addition to the existing tools of war employed by Israel, the minister said that “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,” he said, “or our abilities.”

“We are entering a new age of energy warfarein the air, land and sea. The R&D investments made by the DDR&D in the last years have placed the State of Israel among the leading countries in the field of high-energy laser systems,” Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Rotem, Head of the Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development.

According to Rotem, the ministry has been working for over 10 years on powerful laser technology to enable the development of platforms to intercept a variety of threats. The ministry, he said, has carried out a number of successful interceptions of targets such as mortar shells, drones and anti-tank missiles at a variety of ranges over the years.

“This is a dramatic solution to rocket fire,” said Dubi Oster, Head of the optronics department in the Directorate of Defense R&D. “We have been working on this for years but it’s challenging to get a good quality beam to stay the size you need at the range you need…for example a beam the size of a sneckle from here (in Tel Aviv) to Herzliya.”

While most developments over the years-both in Israel and abroad- have been ineffective, significant achievements have been made over the past year and a half as a result of collaboration between the ministry and defense companies like Rafael and Elbit systems as well as academic institutions.

The breakthrough recently made by the ministry is based on the precision of the laser beam which can be focused on long-range targets and which can overcome atmospheric disturbances such as clouds and dust storms.

According to Oster, the ministry was able to take several laser beams and with an advanced algorithm, connected them to get one strong beam able to intercept and take down a variety of threats.

Based on high-energy electric lasers rather than chemical laser technology, the robust system will complement the other layers of Israel’s aerial defenses and will be a strategic change in the defense capabilities of the State.

According to Rotem, some of the advantages of the high-energy lasers include the ability to continually use the system at a low cost, higher effectiveness, efficient management and decrease in the number of missile interceptors used and the potential to intercept a variety of threats including unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, and guided rockets in the future.

“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.

Artistic depiction of how innovative laser defense system would function on the battle field/ Courtesy

“This is a weapon that you can’t see or hear,” Rotem explained, adding that while it’s not free every interception will cost a few dollars (as opposed to interceptor missiles which can run into the thousands) since it runs on electricity.

The use of two different and complementary technologies – kinetic air defense (like systems such as the Iron Dome) and laser platforms, “is a game changer” Rotem said.

As a result of the breakthrough the ministry has launched three programs for the development of high-energy laser demonstration systems in cooperation with the two companies: a ground-based laser system to complement the capabilities of the Iron Dome, development of a maneuver platform-mounted laser system to defend troops in the field and the development a laser demo system mounted on an air platform to intercept threats above cloud covers and for the defense of wide areas.

“This is one system with many options,” Rotem said, “the weapon of the future.

Throughout the year there will be several trials of the demos capabilities and if effective, will be deployed to the Gaza border area.

“This technology enables the development of highly effective operational systems that will serve as an additional layer of defense to secure the State of Israel by air, land and sea,” the ministry said in a statement.

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