TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) – Israel’s new laser anti-missile defense system has successfully intercepted mortars, missiles and anti-tank missiles in recent tests, Israeli leaders said Thursday.
The Israeli-made laser system, known as “Iron Beam,” is designed to complement a range of air defense systems, including the more expensive Iron Dome missile interceptor.
“This may sound like science fiction, but it’s real,” said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “Iron Beam’s interceptions are silent, they’re invisible, and they’re only about $3.50 each,” he added.
Little is known about the effectiveness of the laser system, but it is expected to be used on land, in the air, and at sea. The aim is to use the laser systems on Israel’s borders over the next ten years to protect the country from attacks.
Thursday’s announcement also sent a message to Israel’s enemies, including archenemy Iran. The tests took place in the Negev desert last month.
The announcement came just before the anniversary of the 11-day Israel-Gaza War, in which the Hamas militant group, which rules Gaza, fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel.
Israel said its Iron Dome defense system had been a great success, with a 90% interception rate against incoming rocket fire. However, officials say the system is expensive to deploy. Bennett has said that someone in Gaza can launch a missile at Israel for a few hundred dollars, but it costs tens of thousands of dollars for the Iron Dome to intercept it.
The Department of Defense released a short video showing the new system’s successful interception of missiles, mortars and an unmanned aerial vehicle. The heavily edited and voiced video appeared to show a laser beam emanating from a ground station hitting targets and shattering them into small pieces.
Bennett said in February that Israel would start using the system within a year.
Israel has already developed or deployed a number of systems designed to intercept everything from long-range missiles to missiles launched from just a few kilometers (miles) away. It also equipped its tanks with an anti-missile defense system.
Talks with world powers on restoring Iran’s ripped-out nuclear deal have stalled. Israel opposes the deal, saying it is not doing enough to curb Iran’s nuclear program or its military activities across the region, and Israeli officials have said they will unilaterally do whatever is necessary to protect the country.