Well, not “space” lasers. Not yet. It’ll be a few more years before Marjorie Taylor Greene can claim partial vindication.
But I’m as excited about the potential for this technology as I am about space exploration. In due time, as the bugs get worked out and the range of the weapon expands, it could make missile attacks of all stripes obsolete. Even ICBMs potentially.
The Iron Dome system has worked wonders in protecting Israelis from Palestinian rocket attacks, with a success rate on the order of 90 percent. But Iron Dome is expensive. Palestinian rockets cost hundreds of dollars while the Iron Dome munitions that intercept them cost thousands.
The obvious solution to the problem: Why, lasers, of course.
Israel has been tinkering with a laser interception system, which it calls Iron Beam, for more than a decade but only recently did they see enough success with the technology that the government was willing to create a budget for it. Today Naftali Bennett showed off what they got for their money. The future is here.
Israel has successfully tested the new “Iron Beam” laser interception system.
This is the world’s first energy-based weapons system that uses a laser to shoot down incoming UAVs, rockets & mortars at a cost of $3.50 per shot.
It may sound like science fiction, but it's real. pic.twitter.com/nRXFoYTjIU
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) April 14, 2022
Is Israel now impregnable by air?
Well, no. In fact, Iron Beam is designed — for now — as a supplement to Iron Dome, not a replacement for it. The lasers have a range of just four miles or so, which means they’ll be used to target smaller projectiles in lower altitudes (i.e. rockets) while Iron Dome takes care of bigger ones, like drone attacks and missile strikes from Lebanon, Syria, or Iran. There’s also the not-so-minor problem that the lasers don’t work well on cloudy days, as the haze interferes with their ability to target.
Which is where the space lasers — or plane lasers, at least — come in:
According to the head of the ministry’s research and development team, Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaniv Rotem, the tests were conducted at “challenging” ranges and timings.
“The use of a laser is a ‘game changer’ and the technology is simple to operate and proves to be economically viable,” he said…
The downside of a laser system is that it does not function well in times of low visibility, including heavy cloud cover or other inclement weather. For that reason, the ministry intends to also mount the system on an airplane, which would help get around this limitation by putting the system above the clouds, though that is still a few more years off, ministry officials have said.
If they can make it work on a plane, presumably they can eventually make it work on a satellite. Then we’re cooking with gas. But in the meantime, Israeli ground forces will reportedly be first to actually use the weapon. Bennett is promising to have it in the field by February of next year.
And if the IDF will soon have it, it’s a matter of time before the U.S. military has it. In fact, the Israeli firm behind Iron Beam announced last year that it’s already partnering with Lockheed Martin to explore “opportunities” created by laser weaponry.
I’m tempted to say Israel should give the system to Ukraine in order to target the Russian air force. But I’m not sure they need it.