Israel Unveils Breakthrough Aerial 'Laser Sword' Missile Intercept System

“It's a game-changer” — declared Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of Israel's Defense Ministry’s (IDF) Directorate of Research and Development, in a Jerusalem Post interview profiling the county's newest breakthrough laser targeting technology. 

The IDF unveiled what's being described as an aerial 'laser sword' which can take out multiple types of airborne threats such as drones, rockets and anti-tank missiles. This after a decade-long program focusing on defensive measures using lasers, and amid a broader global trend which has seen the United States, Russia and China tout its own laser systems, most currently used by naval vessels. 

Artistic rendering via "Israel Defense" news site.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday boasted that the breakthrough “makes the security apparatus more lethal, more powerful and more advanced,” as the IDF plans to integrate its laser technology into current systems. “This technology enables the development of highly effective operational systems that will serve as an additional layer of defense to secure the State of Israel by air, land and sea,” a ministry statement said.

But like with other recent claims of powerful laser weapons, such as out of Chinese defense companies, the burden of 'proof' over whether the lasers are indeed powerful and effective enough to actually make intercepts is another thing and remains to be seen in action

Citing a top official, The Jerusalem Post notes the program has grown successful over many painstaking years: "The ministry has been working for more than 10 years on powerful laser technology to enable the development of platforms to intercept a variety of threats, he said."

And further, said the official: "It has carried out a number of successful interceptions of targets, including mortar shells, drones and antitank missiles, at a variety of ranges over the years."

Specifically the latest breakthrough touted by the ministry relates to the precision and concentration of the laser beam's power.

"According to Oster, the ministry was able to take several laser beams and, with an advanced algorithm, connect them to get one strong beam that is able to intercept and take down a variety of threats," according to the report, citing the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development head of the Optronics Department, Dubi Oster.

“During a war, missile interceptors will at one point run out, but with this system, as long as you have electricity, you have a never-ending supply,” another official working on the program said“This is a weapon that you can’t see or hear,” the official said, adding that each offensive weapons intercept could conceivably only cost a few dollars in electricity. 

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett referenced the high-tech system as a defense "laser sword. He stated to the Jerusalem Post that “we will add a laser sword when dealing with threats from the North or the South,” adding that “The enemies of Israel better not test our resolve or our abilities.”

Illustrative file image

Reports on the program earlier last year referenced one of the particular applications as the 'Iron Beam' — a mobile High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS).

Despite the high claims, the IDF has yet to offer video proof of successful field tests, which could still be years away. Laser technology employed for defensive and offensive purposes has been notoriously 'weak' at extended distances, given the beam's power disperses and decreases rapidly beyond very close proximity.