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IAI, Rafael Accelerate Laser System Development

By Arie Egozi,

Laser as a weapon against rocket, is on the table again in Israel.

In recent months, Israel aerospace industries (IAI) and Rafael are working hard to accelerate the development of a laser system, that can shoot down rockets and mortar shells. But these development efforts are very limited, and no one says that the replacement for the Iron Dome is around the corner.

According to IAI, a prototype of a laser cannon for intercepting mortar shells and similar short-range threats is in a very advanced stage of development, and successful experiments have already been carried out.

In recent years, the defence industries in Israel and the United States have been working to develop a laser-based defence system, which is considered to be the one that will change the battlefield. A few years ago, Rafael presented the first models of a laser gun called an “iron beam” designed to respond to shells fired from a range of up to 5 miles from the border, and Iron Dome has difficulty coping because of the short time that passes from the moment the launch is detected until it hits.

According to IAI, the main advantage of the laser is a fast reaction time, and therefore such a system is good for dealing with short-range munitions such as mortars.

In the US and the Israeli defence forces (IDF) there are those who believe that this system has additional advantages over missile-based defence systems, since its arsenal of ammunition never ends, and the cost of launching a laser beam is very low compared with an Iron Dome interception missile that is estimated to cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The issue became very urgent after a few weeks ago, the Hamas terror organization in Gaza, launched 460 rockets into Israel, some in big salvos of 30- 40 rockets.

Earlier Israeli projects for developing these systems, partly in conjunction with US partners, were shut down in 2007, when it was decided to focus on the home-made Iron Dome. Then, too, some senior figures continued to criticize the Iron Dome.

But after the last Gaza operation in 2014, Iron Dome became a “star”, mainly because its high kill rate.

With recent developments – the capability to launch salvos of rockets from Gaza and the more dangerous threat – the 140.000 rockets accumulated by the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the laser again gained its place of honor, at this stage only in theory.

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