Every sci-fi fan’s dream will come true in the coming year when the small Jewish state puts its “Iron Beam” laser defense systems into operation.
“In a year, Israel will be the first country to have partial laser protection. In two years there could be full protection – against rockets, shells and everything else. It will protect us both in the south and in the north,” Yuval Steinitz explained in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday.
Steinitz was security minister in a previous Netanyahu government and is now chairman of the Rafael weapons development company. Rafael has been working for years on laser technology designed to make Israel unreachable by missiles. Since the country is under constant threat, the project is being pushed ahead at full speed.
More than a hundred engineers from Rafael’s R&D and Design departments are currently working on the development of the Iron Beam, or Magen Or (Light Shield) in Hebrew, which will enable threats such as mortar shells, rockets, anti-tank missiles, drones and various other objects to be detected with the precision of a laser and at the speed of light – and at minimal cost compared to that of the Iron Dome.
The price of a “Tamir” interceptor missile launched from the Iron Dome is around $50,000, and sometimes two of these missiles are fired at an incoming missile that threatens to hit a populated area to ensure its destruction. On the other hand, the price of intercepting with a laser beam mainly depends on the cost of electricity, and one can be sure that the Ministry of Defense will get a favorable price from the Israel Electric Company.
But the Iron Dome won’t be scrapped, because for the time being it is still needed to calculate the trajectory of incoming missiles. When the Iron Dome detects a missile launch bound for Israel, the system’s mission computer analyzes the missile’s trajectory in milliseconds, calculating the angle, speed and altitude, and then decides whether to intercept the missile or let it land harmlessly in an open, uninhabited area. Should an intercept be necessary, the Iron Beam can then be fired at the missile.
While this technological feat is a major achievement for Israel, it is once again a defense system that saves lives, but does nothing to resolve the conflict. It probably won’t be long before Israel’s enemies find a way to bypass this defense system as well, and the threat of terror from within the country won’t be combated by the Iron Beam, either.
It could also be that the terrorist organizations in Gaza and Lebanon will launch an attack on Israel before the Iron Beam becomes operational. Hamas and Hezbollah have thousands of rockets that may soon have no effect. So they may be eager to use them beforehand.
For these reasons and others, it’s best to not be overly optimistic. But, you also can’t underestimate Israel and how its innovative defense systems allow the people to lead relatively normal lives despite all threats.
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