The war behind the war – interceptor vs laser

Even after the impressive success of the Rafael Iron Dome rocket interceptor, there are still some people in Israel – in the defence establishment and outside it – that dream about a laser-based defence system against rockets.

This has been a real war between two totally opposed approaches – one that said that only a laser gun can do the job, and the other that wanted an interceptor. The rest is history. Even after the recent announcement by Lockheed Martin of a successful demonstration of a portable, ground-based military laser system in a series of tests against representative airborne targets, the chances that Israel will invest in such a system are slim.

Lockheed Martin developed the Area Defence Anti-Munitions system to provide a defence against short-range threats such as rockets and unmanned aerial systems.

Since August, the ADAM system has successfully engaged an unmanned aerial system target in flight at a range of about 0.8nm (1.5km) and has destroyed four small-caliber rocket targets in simulated flight at a range of approximately 1.1nm.

Designed for short-range defence of high-value areas including forward operating bases, the ADAM system’s 10kW fiber laser is engineered to destroy targets up to 1.1nm away. The system precisely tracks targets in cluttered optical environments and has a tracking range of more than 2.7nm. The system has been designed to be flexible enough to operate against rockets as a standalone system and to engage UAS with an external radar cue. The ADAM system’s modular architecture combines commercial hardware components with the company’s proprietary software in an integrated and easy-to-operate system.

While tests with the new laser system continue – not only by Lockheed Martin but also by Boeing and other companies, operational use looks very remote.

Coming back to reality, the Israeli Air Force expects to deploy at least another five Iron Dome systems to bolster the capabilities of the five operational ones.

I can only guess  that somewhere, scientists in Israel continue to dream about a laser defence system. But for the foreseeable future, the Iron Dome and its bigger sister, David’s Sling, will continue to intercept rockets of different types and ranges.

With a growing interest in countries like the USA and South Korea, the two Israeli developed systems may find their way to the Israeli defence industries’ exports list.

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