The IDF said Monday it has successfully tested an airborne high-power laser that can shoot down drones, a technology it hopes to deploy on a larger scale in the coming years.
A prototype, developed with Elbit Systems, was mounted on a civilian plane and successfully shot down "several" drones in a recent test over the Mediterranean Sea, according to Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of military research and development at the Defense Ministry.
"We successfully intercepted several UAVs in the air," Rotem told the media. "This is a groundbreaking technological achievement and it is critical for further development of our airborne high-power laser system."
"The ability to intercept and destroy threats from the air is groundbreaking. Israel is among the first countries to use such capabilities," he added.
In the recent test, the system shot down drones from within a range of about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles). In the coming years, Israel hopes to deploy a ground-based system with a range of 20 kilometers (12 miles) that can intercept rockets, mortar rounds and drones.
The electricity-powered lasers provide a significantly cheaper solution to complement Israel's existing air defenses.
The lasers would be used alongside Israel's short-range Iron Dome system, as well as its medium-range David's Sling system, and the Arrow, Israel's highest-altitude missile interception system.
During the latest conflict with Hamas in Gaza last month, some 4,300 projectiles were said to be fired by Palestinian terrorists towards Israel. The Iron Dome defense system managed to successfully intercept about 90 percent of the rockets that were heading for populated areas.
Each Iron Dome missile costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz congratulated both Elbit and the Defense Ministry for the successful experiment.
“Today you have brought ourselves closer to yet another important milestone in the development of the defense of Israel," said Gantz. "It is significant both in terms of cost-effectiveness and defense capabilities."
"The laser system will add a new layer of protection at greater ranges and in facing a variety of threats... I am confident that Israel’s defense industry will succeed in this important development program, and I will personally work together with the entire defense establishment to ensure its success."