An airborne laser weapon to shoot down drones and other flying targets, is being developed by Israel.
Israel’s Defence Ministry and defence contractor Elbit Systems Ltd (ESLT.TA) officials said on Monday, predicting a prototype would be ready by 2025.
They said the as-yet unnamed laser weapon could be incorporated in Israel’s multi-tier air defences, which include the Iron Dome system for downing short-range rockets and the 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 1 km (half a mile) in recent days, Brigadier-General Yaniv Rotem of the ministry’s research and development section told reporters.
“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,” he said.
Elbit makes 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 C-Music’s but would destroy targets by heating them up so they catch fire in “a few seconds”.
Rotem said a 100-kilowatt prototype with a range of 20 km (12.5 miles) would come out in three to four years. That suggested 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.
That would have a range of 8-10 km (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.