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Future Israeli laser defense system will protect against Iranian drones

Defense Ministry has conducted multiple tests to destroy rockets using “a very sophisticated laser weapons system, says senior official

Artist's rendering of a laser defense system shooting down drones (Photo: Ministry of Defense)

Speaking at the AI Week 2023 conference at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday, a senior defense ministry official said that a future Israeli laser defense system will be capable of shooting down Iranian drones being used against Ukraine.

Brig.-Gen. Danny Gold (Res.), head of the MAFAT, Israel Defense Ministry’s research and development directorate, described the latest developments in “the next generation of using lasers.”

Gold is considered the “father” of the Iron Dome defense shield because of his pioneering efforts to create a “start-up” atmosphere at MAFAT, as well as his endorsement and promotion of the system.

The Ministry of Defense has conducted multiple tests to destroy rockets using “a very sophisticated laser weapons system,” according to Gold.

While the Iron Dome system has proven to be very successful, it comes with a high price tag – the cost of each missile is worth nearly $50,000 – compared to the low cost of the rockets being intercepted.

MAFAT previously demonstrated an Iron Beam system, developed with defense firms Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems, with a relatively lower cost per successful interception, as each interception only costs approximately $3.50 worth of energy to power the laser.

However, recognizing the growing threat from drones in modern conflict, Gold said Israel’s new system has also been successfully tested “for mortars, rockets and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), like the Iranian UAVs they are sending to Ukraine.”

Before stepping down in January, Israel Defense Forces Chief Aviv Kochavi told The Jerusalem Post the new laser defense system “worked very well in field tests” and that the IDF will move to test the system in the Gaza strip “in another two years.”

“The laser defense system is truly great news. It will be both land- and air-based. I do want to be cautious regarding timeframes. In another two years, we expect to deploy systems along the Gaza Strip border to test this tool’s effectiveness,” Kochavi said.

In December, Rafael signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to jointly develop and test a High Energy Laser Weapon System in the United States and Israel. That work will be part of the Iron Beam project.

In his comments at the conference, Gold also talked about the need to speed up the process of technological advancement and avoid “the valley of death,” which is the gap between conceiving a new idea and securing the necessary funding.

“We changed inside our organization, to process faster,” he stressed, adding that the team was able to successfully shorten the time it takes to pair researchers with a start-up from one year to two months. “I hope we can shrink it to two weeks,” he stated.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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