Intercepting mortar shells – maybe operational in 5 years’ time

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Don’t hold your breath just yet. In the best case scenario, even had unlimited resources be allocated to this end, an effective system for intercepting mortar shells will not be operational in less than five years.

Mortar shells have menaced the people living in communities along the border with Gaza as well as the soldiers gathered and encamped there.

Mortar shells are fired at very close range of a few kilometers, so the Iron Dome system cannot intercept them. Nevertheless, as disclosed last week, Iron Dome did succeed in intercepting a few mortar shells fired from a range of about 4 miles during the recent campaign.

Israel’s defense industries are keen to solve this issue. IAI developed WindGuard, a mobile radar system capable of detecting mortar shell fire. But then, you have to intercept the mortar shells. This, in turn, is what Rafael developed: a laser system designed to intercept mortar shells.

Rafael’s system, named “Iron Beam”, is based on solid-state-laser.

So here it goes, the effort continues, and it seems laser is the solution, but laser is problematic primarily due to the generator that is required to generate the beam used to destroy the mortar shell.

iHLS Israel Homeland Security

This is the same Achilles heel that plagued the previous attempt to develop a system against rockets. Chemically generated laser is not suitable for interception systems due to the size of the generator and the high concentration of chemicals, hence the requirement for solid-state laser. This is exactly what Rafael is currently working on.

The US is after a laser system that is designed primarily against UAVs: a small laser system combined with rocket launcher. This entire platform is to be installed on a hammer-size jeep.

Those who oppose laser systems cite weather conditions and sandstorms as constant operational limitations. This is why the US Army prefers to build laser systems incorporated with more conventional weapon systems. This combined platform will consist of a laser beam and a conventional weapon such as a rapid gun.

Avid supporters of laser systems in the US and Israel say that laser weapons have far more ammunition than any other system. When the shells or bullets are up, you can still continue to fire many “shots” of laser beams at various targets.

The war in Afghanistan gave a great push for the development of laser weapons. Ground forces under the threat of rockets and mortar shells require an effective defense screen. A mobile laser system that can destroy rockets and mortar shells is currently top priority of all defense industries in Israel and worldwide.