A high-powered laser defense system has for the first time passed a test to intercept drones, missiles and other aerial threats, Israel's Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
Israel has accelerated the roll-out of the laser-based interceptor as part of a plan to adopt such technology and reduce the high costs currently incurred by shooting down incoming projectiles.
The Israeli-made laser system, designed to complement a series of aerial defense systems such as the costly Iron Dome deployed by Israel, will be operational “as soon as possible,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.
The goal is to deploy the laser systems around Israel's borders over the next decade, Gantz added. The tests took place last month in the Negev Desert.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in February that Israel would begin using the system within a year, sending a message to archenemy Iran.
Gantz said the laser system would be part of "an efficient, inexpensive, and innovative protection umbrella.”
"The laser is a game-changer thanks to its easily operated system and significant economic advantages," said Brigadier General Yaniv Rotem from the Defense Ministry's Directorate of Defense Research and Development.
"Our plan is to station multiple laser transmitters along Israel’s borders throughout the next decade," he added.
The laser system was able to intercept drones, mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles in multiple scenarios, the Defense Ministry said. The interceptors would use lasers to super-heat incoming drones or the kinds of rockets favored by Iran-backed militants, officials have said.
The announcement came near the anniversary of the 11-day Israel-Gaza war, in which Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel.