During the recent Israel- Palestinian conflict, which saw the launch of more than 4,000 missiles, at one point Israel faced headwinds in trying to shoot down projectiles flying into its airspace.
The issues did not stem from the inability of the Iron Dome to shoot down Palestinian missiles, but with a large number of missiles being fired during a short period of time, the Iron Dome struggled to fire anti-missiles projectiles in bringing them down. This was especially during the beginning of the conflict, Israel’s Ashkelon, located close to Gaza, faced a total of nearly 150 Palestinian missiles and drones. At that time, the Israeli ministry acknowledged that during the early stages of the conflict, its air defense batteries were challenged and it took them some time before they could “get into rhythm”.
Being saturated with Palestinian missles, the Iron Dome struggled to shoot down missiles and drones and even if it missed just 1 Palestinian missile, the damage it caused to civilians was huge.
So as to mitigate these challenges, Israel’s Ministry of Defense is in the process of developing systems that benefit Israel’s three air defense pillars – the Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling.
Research labs of both the Israeli Air Force and that of Elbit System, a private Israeli company, have created a cost-effective way to shoot down enemy missiles and drones, thus boost Tel Aviv’s air defense systems. They have created an airborne High-Power Laser Weapon System (HPL-WS).
A few days ago, the Israeli Ministry of Defense confirmed that it had tested this system and revealed that the HPL-WS is powerful enough to successful shoot down enemy drone. The system was so successful that in tests the laser drilled holes through the hull and wings of shot down drones.
While Israel continues to improve its electronic countermeasures, direct physical damage to drones is probably the best countermeasure against them.
Israel has been working on this project since years, and the latest tests are the fruition of those years of efforts. The success of its tests is likely to guaranteed that it will soon be adopted by the Israeli army.
During the tests, the HPL-WS was able to handle and neutralize several projectiles at different heights, which speaks of its efficiency. The system has also been tested in various weather conditions and has shown remarkable efficacy.
The Israeli military did not disclose the operational characteristics of the HPL-WS.
According to Oren Sabag, general manager at Elbit Systems ISTAR, the HPL-WS is a “powerful laser” that will intercept enemy missiles in their launch zone meaning the system is not likely to have a wide operational range.
Since the HPL-WS is airborne, it is probably intended for the Israeli Air Force, which means it could be integrated onto helicopters (as tested), and fighter jets. Further, since the laser is supposed to be “powerful”, it will necessary require powerful power supply source in the air, which is likely to limit its deployment capabilities.
May be at the next stage, HPL-WS will be developed for ground air defenses, which could overcome the power supply limitations in the air.
One of the best things about the HPL-WS is its efficacy at downing enemy drones at low cost. According to Brigadier General Yaniv Rotem it can maintain this cost ratio in all weather conditions, varied altitudes, projectile volume, and varied wind conditions.