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Israeli PM to Speed Up Rollout of Lasers for Missile Defense

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TEL AVIV, Israel xe2x80x94 Israelxe2x80x99s prime minister on Tuesday acknowledged that its Iron Dome defense system is too expensive and the country is speeding the rollout of laser technology to help protect it from rocket attacks.

Naftali Bennett told a security conference that the new generation of technology — a xe2x80x9claser wallxe2x80x9d — will be unveiled within a year in southern Israel. Little is known about the system’s effectiveness, but the system eventually is expected to be deployed on land, in the air and at sea and send a deterrent message to archenemy Iran and its proxies.

The lasers are designed to complement Israelxe2x80x99s multilayered defenses xe2x80x94 which include the Iron Dome and other systems capable of intercepting long and medium-range missiles and drones.

“The economic equation will be reversed; they will invest a lot and we will invest a little,xe2x80x9c Bennett told the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

xe2x80x9cIf it is possible to intercept a missile or rocket with just an electric pulse that costs a few dollars, we will have nullified the ring of fire that Iran has set up on our borders,xe2x80x9d Bennett said, adding, “This new generation of air defense can also serve our friends in the region.xe2x80x9d

Israel unveiled the Iron Dome a decade ago, and the military says it has been a great success, with a 90% interception rate against incoming rocket fire during four wars against militants in the Gaza Strip.

But in his speech, Bennett said the system is limited by its high price, which is partly underwritten by the United States. Defense officials had originally planned for the laser technology to be ready in about two years.

The laser technology is intended to complement the Iron Dome and other systems to meet new threats. Bennett said someone in Gaza can fire a rocket toward Israel for a few hundred dollars, but it costs tens of thousands of dollars to intercept it. He spoke from Israel’s recent experience: In May, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel.

xe2x80x9cThat is an illogical equation,xe2x80x9d Bennett said. xe2x80x9cWe decided to break this equation.xe2x80x9d

He said that within a year, Israel’s military will begin testing what is designed to become a xe2x80x9claser wallxe2x80x9d against missiles, rockets and drones. The system could be used by Israel and other countries against threats from Iran, which has developed long-range missiles capable of striking Israel.

Israeli defense officials have spoken before about successful tests of laser defense systems mounted on aircraft with the aim of intercepting unmanned aircraft. The laser system has been described as having the ability to address longer-range threats at high altitudes regardless of weather conditions.

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