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June 21, 2021 12:02 pm

Israel Tests ‘Breakthrough’ Airborne Laser Defense System to Take Down Drones

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

A drone downed by the Israeli laser defense system in a test. Photo: Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office

Israel has completed its first-ever series of tests of an airborne laser-based defense system which “successfully” intercepted and destroyed drones from the air within a range of more than 0.6 miles and an accuracy rate of 100%.

Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke of a “technological breakthrough” in terms of both “cost-effectiveness and defense capabilities.”

Israel has already developed a large and sophisticated air defense system, including the Iron Dome, which intercepted thousands of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at a 90% rate during last month’s 11-day fighting, according to the Israel Defense Forces. The high power laser technology would complement that system, the Defense Ministry said.

“Israel is among the first countries in the world, if not the first one to achieve and demonstrate such successful interception employing an airborne, high-power laser system,” said Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, Head of Research and Development at the Defense Ministry.

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The test series is the first phase in a multi-year program in cooperation with Elbit Systems to develop a laser system against a variety of long-range threats. Israel is working now on a 100-kilowatt prototype with a range of 12.5 miles, which is expected to be developed in three to four years.

During preliminary tests, the laser developed together with Elbit Systems Ltd. was installed on an aircraft and was tested in a number of scenarios. The Defense Ministry described the ability to intercept and destroy airborne threats in the air as “groundbreaking.”

According to Rotem, the advantage of the airborne laser system is that it has a low cost per interception and allows for effective interception of long-range threats at high altitudes over clouds regardless of bad-weather conditions, while defending vast areas.

Additionally, the Defense Ministry said that it is working on a ground-based laser weapon system with a range of 5-6 miles for downing aerial threats, including rockets, mortar rounds and drones. The ministry expects the ground-based system to be operational in the next three to four years.

“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,” said Oren Sabag, General Manager of Elbit Systems ISTAR.

The airborne laser system will be added to Israel’s multi-tier missile defense array, which include the Iron Dome and David’s Sling and Arrow systems to intercept missiles.

Watch footage of the system test below:

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