The State of Israel has long been defended from a ballistic missile attack with a multilayered system that includes the Iron Dome. The Iron Dome uses anti-ballistic missiles to shoot down rockets fired on Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, where Hamas relentlessly plots its destruction, and from Lebanon, where the terrorist group Hezbollah does the will of Iran. Iran itself is working diligently to create long-range ballistic missiles with which to strike Israel, perhaps with weapons of mass destruction such as poison gas or its long-desired nuclear weapons.
Now, Israel has announced a new weapon in its ceaseless effort to defend its territory from a missile attack. The UK Daily Mail explains.
“Israel has unveiled a ‘laser sword’ defense system that can stop rockets and drones as tensions in the region continue to simmer.
“The technological breakthrough, announced by the country’s Ministry of Defence, means lasers can hit targets with a greater degree of accuracy, over longer distances, and through clouds and dust storms. It is expected to be tested this year and deployed in the coming years, to help support the Iron Dome missile defense system.”
Lasers have been seen as the perfect weapon with which to shoot down ballistic missiles, dating back from the 1980s Reagan-era SDI program. A powerful enough laser can lock onto an incoming missile from a great distance and fire, destroying it or at least rendering it useless. More importantly, unlike anti-missiles, it can never run out of ammunition. So long as electricity exists to power the laser, it can fire as many shots as necessary. An ABM system that has laser cannons in it is less likely to be overwhelmed by a swarm of missiles.
While laser weapons have been theoretically potent in a battle against missiles, developing the technology to do so has been a long slog. However, the Jerusalem Post quotes Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development as saying that Israel is entering into a “new age of energy warfare in the air, on land, and at sea.” Israel seems to have solved a lot of the technical problems that have existed in developing laser weapons.
“The breakthrough recently made by the ministry is based on the precision of the laser beam, which can be focused on long-range targets and which can overcome atmospheric disturbances such as clouds and dust storms.
Furthermore “the ministry was able to take several laser beams and, with an advanced algorithm, connect them to get one strong beam that can intercept and take down a variety of threats. Based on high-energy electric lasers rather than chemical laser technology, the robust system will complement the other layers of Israel’s aerial defenses and will be a strategic change in the defense capabilities of the state, the ministry said.”
The new lasers, which will be land-based, will be able to deal with a variety of threats, ranging from the long-range missiles that Iran might be tempted to launch down to drones and even flammable balloons that Hamas occasionally launches to set fire to Israeli farms and forests.
Initially, laser cannon would be deployed along with the interceptors of the Iron Dome system, complementing rather than replacing them. Later, mobile platforms would be used along with Israeli ground troops to defend against tactical weapons, including antitank missiles. Aircraft will eventually be equipped with lasers to guard against threats in the atmosphere.
It should be noted that the United States has embarked on a laser weapon research and development program that has borne some fruit. Lasers are being tested for the defense of navy ships against missiles, drones, and even small speed boats loaded with explosives favored by terrorists. Other lasers are being developed for fighter aircraft, making a potent weapon for air to air combat. Ground-based lasers are being tested for tactical combat and as part of missile defense, similar to the Israeli effort.
With the beginning of the United States Space Force, the use of laser weapons in space is being looked at again. Lasers will be useful for anti-satellite weapons or to defend against the same. Lasers could even be revived as an idea for a space-based missile defense system for the first time since the days of SDI.
In short, what was once the stuff of science fiction is becoming fact in the 21st Century world.