The new development is based on an electric laser, which is expected to produce a power of about 100 kW, the required distance to destroy miles of rockets, mortar shells, drones and anti-missiles.
The Ministry of Defense has revealed on Wednesday that it is investing hundreds of millions of shekels together with Rafael and Elbit’s proven powerful laser systems to intercept missiles and rockets.
The new development is based on an electric laser, which is expected to produce a power of about 100 kW, the required distance to destroy miles of rockets, mortar shells, drones and anti-missiles. However, this laser has only been tested in the lab so far and is only being launched for the first time this year. Only this year, the system will be stationed in an experimental field in the south for the first time to test its capabilities in field conditions.
The cost of the system’s entire operation is estimated at a single shekel, compared with about NIS 170,000 per launch of Iron Dome missiles, and its activity is not accompanied by noise and is not visible. In case of detection of launches, the laser system will be activated first, and if the intercept fails, the iron dome, that entered operational operations in 2011, will be activated.
For more od a decade, the defense establishment has been working on powerful laser technology to enable the development of platforms to intercept a variety of threats. It has carried out a number of successful interceptions of targets, including mortar shells, drones, and antitank missiles, at a variety of ranges over the years.
In the 1990s, Israel financed part of the development of the American Nautilus system, with the aim of using it to intercept the Katyusha interceptions that Hezbollah sent to northern Israel. But the project was abandoned after it became apparent that its pace and laser intensity were not high enough and that the chemical laser on which it was based was too environmentally toxic.
Three programs for the development of high-energy laser demo systems are now being developed in cooperation with defense industries, Rafael and Elbit Systems:
Ground Laser: Will serve as a complement to the Iron Dome system, and will be the first to begin experiments. The system, which Raphael is responsible for, will be tested in the second half of the year, and if it proves itself in the experiments, it may be set up in late 2020 in the south to test its capabilities against real Hamas gunfire.
Mobile laser: Will be deployed in an LMC or truck with field capabilities, and will accompany maneuvering forces. The purpose of the system is to protect forces within 4-3 km. Raphael is also responsible for this system and is expected to test in 2022.
Airborne laser: Will be installed in the Hercules plane and should be used for rocket and missile aerial interceptions. Air interception is supposed to override one of the main limitations of the laser, its inability to operate through clouds. Elbit is responsible for this project and is expected to reach trials in 2024.
Head of the Directorate of Research and Development in the DDR&D, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem stated: “We are entering a new age of energy warfare in the air, land, and sea. The R&D investments made in the last 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.”
It should be noted that similar projects are currently being developed in the US, China, Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The Americans were the first to put in service a powerful laser system, already installed in some US Navy vessels, capable of producing 60 kW, and open in small ships and hovercraft.