Military drone for tracking flies over city

Israel developing airborne laser to shoot down drones

Image credit: Dezzor/Dreamstime

Israel’s Defence Ministry and defence contractor Elbit Systems Ltd have announced the development of an airborne laser weapon to shoot down military drones and other flying targets. They predict a prototype should be ready by 2025.

According to all parties involved, experts could incorporate the unnamed laser weapon into Israel’s multi-tier air defences, which include the 'Iron Dome' system for downing short-range rockets and 'David’s Sling and Arrow' systems against ballistic missiles.

Preliminary tests of the laser, flown on a light aircraft, were successful against several drones at ranges of around 1km (approximately half a mile) in recent days, said Brigadier-General Yaniv Rotem of the ministry’s research and development section.

Rotem said: “As far as we know, we are the first one (country) - but maybe, for sure, we are among the first countries - that have tried and succeeded (at) such an interception.”

Elbit already manufactures 'C-Music', a defence system fitted to aircraft which uses a laser to 'blind' incoming missiles. Oren Sabag, a senior Elbit official, said the new laser weapon would use tracking technologies similar to those of C-Music, but would destroy targets by heating them up so they catch fire in “a few seconds”.

A 100KW prototype with a range of 20km (approximately 12.5 miles) would be available within three to four years, Rotem said, adding that an operational version would take longer to roll out.

The ministry, Elbit and state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd are also working on a ground-based laser weapon for shooting down aerial threats. These would have a range of 8-10km (approximately 5-6 miles) and be operational by 2025, the ministry said.

“The airborne version would have an advantage because it could be operated over clouds, eliminating bad-weather disruptions that can afflict ground-based lasers,” Rotem said.

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