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Israeli airborne laser system successfully completes first-ever interception tests

Israeli airborne laser system successfully completes first-ever interception tests

The High-Power Laser system was installed on an aircraft and successfully intercepted and destroyed UAVs

Udi Etsion | 18:27  21.06.2021
The Directorate of Defense R&D in the Israel Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on Monday that together with Elbit Systems and the Israel Air Force it managed to successfully intercept several UAVs using an airborne High-Power Laser Weapon System (HPL-WS). The UAVs were intercepted at various ranges and flight altitudes.

There are currently several laser systems under development in Israel that are intended to intercept a variety of threats, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) attacks. These systems include a ground-based laser system to complement the capabilities of Israel’s existing anti missile system Iron Dome; a maneuverable system that could be mounted on a vehicle to defend soldiers on the battlefield; and an aircraft-mounted system.

A High-Power Laser Weapon System installed on an aircraft. Photo: Ministry of Defense A High-Power Laser Weapon System installed on an aircraft. Photo: Ministry of Defense A High-Power Laser Weapon System installed on an aircraft. Photo: Ministry of Defense

During this series, a High-Power Laser system was installed on an aircraft and was tested in a number of scenarios. It successfully intercepted and destroyed all of the UAVs that were launched throughout the test.

The laser systems are intended to come in addition to, and not instead of systems like Iron Dome. The laser systems are being developed in collaboration with Israeli defense contractors Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and Elbit Systems Ltd.

Covid-19 and technical difficulties have delayed the airborne project by an estimated year, meaning the prototype will only undergo its first extensive test at the end of 2021, and will require around three more years before it becomes operational, assuming there aren't any further setbacks.

"I would like to congratulate the Directorate for Defense R&D, Elbit Systems and the IAF on the technological breakthrough they have achieved," said Defense Minister, Benny Gantz. "Today you have brought us closer to yet another important milestone in the development of the multi-tier defense array of the State of Israel and it is significant both in terms of cost-effectiveness and defense capabilities. The laser system will add a new layer of protection at greater ranges and in facing a variety of threats – securing the State of Israel while saving the costs of interception."

Israel is among the first countries in the world to achieve and demonstrate such capabilities employing an airborne, High-Power Laser system. This method of airborne interception has many advantages, including a low cost per interception, the ability to effectively intercept long-range threats at high altitudes regardless of weather conditions, and the ability to defend vast areas. The airborne, High-Power Laser System will complement Israel's multi-tier missile defense array, which include the Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow missile interceptor systems.

Israel has offered the U.S. to cooperate with it on the project and is also in talks with defense corporations in additional countries regarding a potential collaboration.

"We successfully intercepted several UAVs in the air, within a range of more than 1km," said Head of Research and Development in the DDR&D, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem. "This is a groundbreaking technological achievement and it is critical for further development of our airborne High-Power Laser System."

General Manager of Elbit Systems ISTAR, Oren Sabag: "We are proud to spearhead the development of this strategic capability together with the Ministry of Defense and the IAF. The trials were successful thanks to a range of unique technological assets. 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."
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