Israeli high-tech v. Hamas low-tech: New laser cannon shows 100% success rate against arson balloons

The ‘LightBlade’ system eliminated 150 incendiary balloons within 10 days.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A new high tech laser gun has shot down 150 incendiary balloons launched by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza over the past ten days, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday.

The ‘Light Blade’ system was deployed earlier this month and has proven successful at intercepting the balloons that terrorists in Gaza load with incendiary or explosive devices. The prevailing winds from Gaza then carry the balloons into Israel where they detonate and have ignited hundreds of brush and forest fires.

The Light Blade uses optical sensors to track the balloons and fires a continuous and focused laser beam at it until the balloon or cluster of balloons explodes, before they penetrate Israeli territory.

The first system covers only a limited sector of the Gaza border, but so far has a success rate of close to 100 percent. Palestinians continue to launch dozens of balloons to other sectors, some of which are intercepted by IDF drones, but most of them manage to infiltrate Israel and cause arson in agricultural areas.

The system, designed around an industrial laser developed for cutting thick plastic sheeting for greenhouses, has been modified to meet the Gaza threats.

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Several months in development before it was deployed in the field for evaluation, the Light Blade system now appears ready for operation and additional units are expected to be used that will cover the entire 60 kilometer (36 mile) long border between Gaza and Israel.

“Every takedown is a relief,” said one of the two senior police officers manning the device, Major Manny Shalom.

“On the other hand, I’m frustrated when a balloon changes its position because of the wind movement and goes out of our range,” Shalom said. “Civilians may be harmed.”

Shalom said that although the system looks like a computer game, the reality is much more tense.

“In one moment, 15 balloons can appear in front of you at once, and within seconds you have to prioritize according to which is the first of them to cross the fence.”

The idea for the system was conceived by two engineering professors at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who watched the news and were frustrated about the lack of defense for such simple devices.

Although many security officials expressed skepticism, the one who recognized the potential was the commander of Israel’s border police, Superintendent Kobi Shabtai.

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“The advantage of the Light Blade system, unlike other similar systems in the world, is its special laser that does not interfere with the airspace and does not harm the eyes of pilots or aircraft,” Shabtai told Israel Hayom.

“The system was built within eight months, and has now proven itself beyond expectations,” Shabtai said, adding that the operation is conducted in coordination with the IDF.