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Airborne High-Power Laser System

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced 01 February 2022 that the timeline on deploying its first laser-based air defences in Israel has been moved up from 2025. According to Bennett, the system will be put to use "experimentally within a year" and – deployed "operationally" after that. "And this will enable us, as the years advance, to surround Israel with a wall of lasers which will protect us from missiles, rockets, UAVs and other threats", Bennet said. During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, some analysts speculated that the main reason Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with militant group Hamas was its supply of Iron Dome interceptor missiles was depleted.

Gareth Jennings, writing for Janes on 02 February 2022, "that the laser system, which was not named but would most likely be the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Iron Beam..." But Gabriel Honrada, writing for Asia Times, reported that "Despite the Iron Beam’s potential, Israeli defense officials concluded that laser technology was not mature enough at the time. Its limited range also meant it could not fully replace the Iron Dome, but could help it to intercept very short-range targets."

The prime minister elaborated that the country's south, which more often sees rocket launches from Gaza, will take priority in receiving new interceptors that will complement existing layers of missile defence, among them the much-touted Iron Dome and the David's Sling and Arrow. Bennett praised the new laser-based technology and said it will give Tel Aviv an edge over enemies that seek its destruction, including Iran, according to the prime minister.

"If we can intercept a missile or rocket with an electrical pulse that costs a few dollars, we will essentially neutralize the ring of fire that Iran has set up. The equation will be overturned - they will invest much, and we little", the prime minister said. The announcement comes less than a year after Hamas and other Gaza-based groups unleashed rockets at Israel in May 2021 following the killing of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Tel Aviv's Iron Dome short-range air-defence system reportedly managed to repel most of the hundreds of projectiles said to have been fired at the country. The intensive two-week conflict significantly reduced Tel Aviv's stockpile of Iron Dome ammunition which saw Israel quickly making significant unplanned purchases of new weapons from the US.

Israel MoD successfully completed its first-ever series of interception tests employing an Airborne High-Power Laser System in June 2021. The Directorate of Defense R&D in the Ministry of Defense (MoD), together with Elbit Systems and the IAF, has successfully intercepted several UAVs using an airborne High-Power Laser Weapon System (HPL-WS). The UAVs were intercepted at various ranges and flight altitudes.

Defense Minister, Benny Gantz: "I would like to congratulate the Directorate for Defense R&D, Elbit Systems and the IAF on the technological breakthrough they have achieved. Today you have brought us closer to yet another important milestone in the development of the multi-tier defense array of the State of Israel and it is significant both in terms of cost-effectiveness and defense capabilities. The laser system will add a new layer of protection at greater ranges and in facing a variety of threats – securing the State of Israel while saving the costs of interception. I am confident that Israel's defense industry will succeed in this important development program, and I will personally work together with the entire defense establishment to ensure its success."

The test series was conducted under the leadership of the Directorate of Defense R&D in the Israel Ministry of Defense. During this series, a High-Power Laser system was installed on an aircraft and was tested in a number of scenarios. It successfully intercepted and destroyed all of the UAVs that were launched throughout the test. The ability to intercept and destroy airborne threats in the air is groundbreaking and offers a strategic change in the air defense capabilities of the State of Israel. This game-changing series was conducted in a testing field in the center of Israel, in close cooperation with the IAF and the “Yanat" unit.

Israel is among the first countries in the world to achieve and demonstrate such capabilities employing an airborne, High-Power Laser system. This test series is the first phase in a multi-year program led by the Directorate of Defense R&D and Elbit Systems to develop a laser system against a variety of long-range threats.

This method of airborne interception has many advantages, including a low cost per interception, the ability to effectively intercept long-range threats at high altitudes regardless of weather conditions, and the ability to defend vast areas. The airborne, High-Power Laser System will complement Israel's multi-tier missile defense array, which include the Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow missile interceptor systems. This system will increase the effectiveness of air defense against existing and future threats in the region.

Head of Research and Development in the DDR&D, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem: “The Directorate of Defense R&D in the Ministry of Defense, Elbit and the IAF have completed a series of tests employing a powerful, airborne laser system. We successfully intercepted several UAVs in the air, within a range of more than 1km. This is a groundbreaking technological achievement and it is critical for further development of our airborne High-Power Laser System."

General Manager of Elbit Systems ISTAR, Oren Sabag: “We are proud to spearhead the development of this strategic capability together with the Ministry of Defense and the IAF. The trials were successful thanks to a range of unique technological assets. We believe that the use of a high-power laser to carry out low-cost airborne interception of rockets and hostile unmanned aircraft, closer to their launching areas and away from population centers, offers a significant change in Israel's defense capabilities."

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Page last modified: 03-07-2022 15:26:08 ZULU