Israel announces ‘breakthrough’ laser defense system

The new missile defense system will complement the Iron Dome and is set to be tested over the coming year, according to Israel’s Defense Ministry.
A computer-generated image showing a laser-based missile defense system being developed by Israel, Jan. 8, 2020. Credit: Israeli Defense Ministry.
A computer-generated image showing a laser-based missile defense system being developed by Israel, Jan. 8, 2020. Credit: Israeli Defense Ministry.
(January 9, 2020 / Israel Hayom) Israel’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that it is developing a laser defense system against missiles, drones and other airborne threats based on what it called a “technological breakthrough.”
The new system is scheduled to undergo testing over the coming months, and once operational is expected to complement the country’s Iron Dome air defense system, not replace it. The nature of the “technological breakthrough” was not specified. 
The new system is based on electric lasers, not chemical ones, is silent and invisible and costs less than NIS 10 (about $3.50) per interception, in contrast with Iron Dome, which costs about NIS 170,000 ($49,000) per interception. Because it runs on electricity, unlike Iron Dome or other projectile-based defense systems, the new system cannot run out of ammunition.
“We are entering a new age of energy warfare in the air, land and sea,” said IDF Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, the head of the ministry’s Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure Administration (MAFAT).
“The research and development investments made by the [Defense Ministry] in recent 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,” said Rotem.
According to the ministry MAFAT is developing three variants of the laser defense system in cooperation with Israeli defense contractors Rafael and Elbit Systems: a static, ground-based variant; a mobile, platform-mounted variant to defend troops in the field; and a variant that can be mounted on aircraft.
Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman hailed the announcement on Wednesday.
“I congratulate the defense establishment on developing a laser system for intercepting rocket launches and anti-aircraft missiles, a project approved during my tenure as defense minister. I am glad that the development of the system was done quickly and efficiently and that the project was not ‘buried’ like the Northern Protection Program I initiated, which was frozen when I resigned as Minister of Defense,” Lieberman wrote on Twitter.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett also lauded the achievement, saying on Wednesday that “the Israeli brain continues to lead with breakthrough innovation. The laser project will make the defense establishment deadlier, more powerful and more advanced.”
Last month, the Israel Police unveiled a new laser system designed to intercept airborne incendiary threats launched from the Gaza Strip. The system is reportedly operational, but no deployment date has yet been set.
Dubbed “Light Blade,” the system is said to resemble Iron Dome in its technology. It will target incendiary balloons and kites, which have started countless fires in southern Israel over the past two summers, as well as drones.