Israel to begin testing laser weapon to shoot down rockets

The laser will complement Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system – AFP

The Israeli military will soon begin testing a new laser weapon to shoot down incoming missiles and drones, the Israeli ministry of defence has announced.

Israel’s government said it had made “a breakthrough” in the futuristic technology and is expecting to begin demonstrating its use later this year. 

“We are entering a new age of energy warfare in the air, land and sea,” the ministry said. “Throughout the year 2020 we will conduct a demo of our capabilities.” 

While the technology has proved enormously costly to develop, Israel hopes that once it is functional it will be a cheaper alternative to expensive interceptor missiles. 

Israel’s advanced Iron Dome missile defence system costs about $80,000 (£61,211) for each missile it fires to intercept an incoming rocket. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) believes the new laser will cost as little as $1 per shot once functioning. 

The laser weapon also has the advantage of never running out of ammunition as long as it has a steady supply of electricity, according to the Times of Israel. Israeli defence planners have long feared they could run out of Iron Dome missiles if forced to fight an extended conflict on two fronts.  

One limitation of the laser weapon is that its effectiveness diminishes on cloudy days or when there are other forms of atmospheric interference. “We can only shoot down with a laser what we can see,” said Brigadier General Yaniv Rotem.

The ministry said the laser was meant to complement the Iron Dome system but would not replace it. 

Israel is working on three different systems for the laser weapon. One would be a stationary system meant to protect cities from rockets fired by Hamas or Hizbollah, while a second would be a smaller, mobile system to protect troops in the field. 

The third would be mounted on an aircraft and intended to shoot down high-flying missiles that are above cloud level and therefore beyond the reach of ground-based laser systems.

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