Bennett ‘misleading the public’ about defense, say security officials

Prime Minister’s announcement on laser defense system “premature, inaccurate,” sources say.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Sources within Israel’s security establishment criticized Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for his announcement that Israel was on the way to building a “Laser-Wall” defensive system, saying that the system is still years away from becoming operational.

Speaking at the INSS 15th Annual International Conference in Tel Aviv Tuesday evening, Bennett announced that “we decided to break this equation, and it will break, in just a few short years.”

“In about a year, the IDF will launch a laser interception system. At first experimentally and later it will become operational. First in the south and then elsewhere,” Bennett said.

“This will allow us, in the medium to long term, to surround Israel with a laser wall that protects us from missiles, rockets, UAVs and other threats. In fact, it will take away the strongest card the enemy has against us,” he added.

Statements ‘so problematic’

However, senior security officials are quoted as saying that Bennett is “misleading the public,” and that the development process will take about three years. Furthermore, the laser system complements the protection of the Iron Dome system and does not replace it.

“We will continue to promote the process responsibly, it will take several years until it becomes operational,” the security officials said.

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Tal Lev-Ram, Ma’ariv’s military reporter, wrote that “Bennett fell in love with leveraging the laser project, but the leverage is political and inaccurate.”

“There is no doubt about the importance of the project, but it is still a long way off. Experiments have been going on for a good few years and the Ministry of Defense has already announced a breakthrough about two years ago. Operational feasibility at a basic level in about three years,” he explained.

Bennett’s statements on the laser project are “so problematic that it is difficult to decide where to start: inaccuracy, gross errors, lack of coordination, inflating reality,” he added.

Technological breakthrough

In February 2020, Israel’s Defense Ministry unveiled a technological “breakthrough” that will enable the development and deployment of powerful laser-based interception and defensive systems.

“The new technology will bring strategic change in Israel’s air defense capabilities,” the ministry’s Research and Development Agency (RDA) stated.

The technological breakthrough is based on the ability to fire off a laser beam accurately. Using the new technology, the new defense system has been able to target and stabilize the beam on long-range targets while overcoming atmospheric disturbances.

This technology enables the development of effective intercepting systems, with high operational efficiency that will form another layer in the effort to protect the State of Israel by air, land and sea.

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Following the breakthrough, the ministry has launched three powerful laser programs, in collaboration with the Israeli Rafael and Elbit Systems security industries.

The first element under development is a ground laser system which will be complementary to the Iron Dome defense system and will form an additional layer of protection from rocket, mortar, and missile attacks.

Another element under development is a mobile vehicle-mounted unit for the protection of the maneuvering forces in the field.

The third unit under development is an airborne drone-based system that “intercepts above the clouds” and “protects larger spaces.”

The benefits of a laser interception system are the continuous and low-cost use, and improving the effectiveness of the protection systems as a result of using two different and complementary technologies – kinetic air defense such as the Iron Dome system and the laser.

Likewise, the laser enables smart interception management and the reduced usage of costly interceptors used by the Iron Dome and other systems.

Additionally, the laser interceptor is effective in intercepting other threats such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), drones and even accurate rockets in the future.