Beyond killing drones Israeli laser knocks mortars out of the sky
Israel is increasingly worried about Iranian use of drones, prompting aggressive, innovative countermeasures.
By Arie Egozi on April 14, 2022 at 10:57 AM
TEL AVIV: Israel recently tested a laser weapon system that successfully knocked drones, mortars and rockets out of the sky in what a senior Israeli officer called a “game-changer” for ground-based airborne defense.
“The laser is a game-changer thanks to its easily operated system and significant economic advantages,” said Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of the Israeli military’s research and development department.
Israel said that in a recent test, a laser defense system knocked UAVs, mortars and rockets out of the sky (Credit: Israeli Ministry of Defense)
The test comes as Israel sees growing threats from Iranian UAVs, which experts fear could be forward deployed to nearby Iran-backed groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Rotem said that after further development, the “plan is to station multiple laser transmitters along Israel’s borders throughout the next decade” to compliment Israel’s famed Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israel has been working on counter-UAV lasers for years, proving an ability to shoot down drones last year in a small scale tests (after which Rotem also described the tech as “game-changing.”) But this was the first test for other the other threats like mortars.
Defense sources here said the US Department of Defense had been kept abreast of the tests’ success and could play a role in the full production of the system, which is made by Israeli defense firms Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems.
Announcing the plans for full-scale production, Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, praised the recent tests as a “breakthrough on a global scale.”
“Our goal is to achieve operational status as soon as possible, which will enable an efficient, inexpensive, and innovative means of defense,” he said. “This system will save lives and will also allow operational flexibility.”
While the US and other nations are also working on laser-based defenses, the Israeli military says it’s one of the first to develop high-powered laser technology with operational intercept capabilities.
In November Breaking Defense reported that the US and Israel had grown sufficiently concerned about Iran’s drone capabilities that the two had stepped up cooperation to hinder the Shi’a nation’s UAV production and use — from US sanctions to reported direct strikes by Israel. (Last month Israel revealed that two Israel F-35s scored the plane’s first air-to-air kills in 2021 when they shot down two Iranian-made drones that were purportedly approaching Israel.)
Since at least mid-2021, Israel and the US have exchanged intelligence about Iranian UAV capabilities, according to sources here, which Iran purportedly sees as among its best weapons to strike US and Israeli interests in the region.
Earlier this month a high-ranking Iranian officer, IRGC chief Gen. Hossein Salami, claimed in a television interview that Iran’s UAV tech was better even than America’s, specifically saying Iran had a drone that could air-launch an anti-ship missile. Israeli experts said it was clear that Salami was exaggerating, but that it was also clear Iran is attempting to develop ever-deadlier drones.
And while Iran’s older drones used off-the-shelf technology, sources here said newer intelligence suggests Iran has been successful in developing more advanced systems domestically, with the help of foreign experts.