Laser based Israeli weapons; It’s not well known, but it’s right out of a Star Wars movie.
With the news of bigger, more accurate rockets flooding into Terrorist hands in the Gaza strip, and the dangerous increase in range those rockets allow, what can protect Israeli population centers from rocket rain? The answer is Israeli ingenuity, and a little help from Israel’s friends.
“THEL” – Tactical High Energy Laser (Pentagon named: “Nautilus”)
In development for over ten years as a joint US / Israel weapons development platform, Nautilus is designed specifically to target short range threats, Katyushas, Qassams, Mortars etc. In other words the weapons of choice for stupid little Terrorists everywhere.
The good news is it appears to work, in fact it works very well! But there’s bad news too.
The system recently managed to knock out two seperate katyushas in a test firing (multiple simultaneous targets engaged) and that is impressive to say the least because THEL looks and operates like something out of a Lucas Film.
The bad news is that the program was put on hold last month by the Pentagon, the reasons are complicated but they stem from the following.
1) The system as it stands is big & bulky, too big for the US to deploy with front line troops in Iraq as an example.
2) Israel has been penny pinching on the program, and bungling the US relationships (as usual Israel’s Hasbara? woefully lacking.)
3) It’s taking time, and new technologies are in ongoing development, the US is across the entire map with a bewildering array of different tactics and philosophies to missile defense, like a Woman in a clothing store they don’t seem to have a solid direction just yet and are sampling one of everything.
4) Joint technology programs have been seriously hampered by technology sales, specifically the US not wanting Israel to sell weapons platforms to 3rd party countries. The relationship was seriously damaged last year, and only now are the first few signs of kissing and making up starting to appear.
Some of the biggest names in Defense, in the US Northrop Grumman, on the Israeli side; Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI – developers of the Arrow, the world’s first functioning Ballistic Missile Shield), Elbit Systems (Aircraft avionics, electronic systems head mounted displays, upgrades etc) and Rafael, one of Israel’s more famous weapons developers including the Rafael type class of Air to Air missiles.
Just prior to pulling out troops, Israeli politicians and Generals made some curious comments and remarks in regards to ‘top secret’ technologies recently deployed to protect Israeli Civilians from Gaza attacks. One of those technologies may well have been the Radar component of the THEL, developed by Northrop and recently shipped to Sderot.
The Radar component allows the laser systems to track targets. So while Israel may not be knocking rockets out of the sky with lasers just yet, you can be sure of this… They’re tracking launches and using conventional means (drones, cobras, and special forces) to hit the launch sites and rocket teams.
MTHEL – Put it on wheels..
The US has stated flat out that the original prototype is way too big, last year discussions resulted in a plan to shrink the THEL down, mount it on trucks or jeeps and get this baby mobile for deployment with troops closer to the action (after all, the rockets it targets only have short ranges, and are pretty mobile launch capable themselves.)
The plan seems like a good one, and Northrop was and is confident in the system perhaps being able to engage up to 50 or 60 separate targets at once. Such a defensive weapon would be formidable, it would alter the balance of power in the region yet again.
Multi Layered Defense
With IAI designed, and Boeing built Arrows (already deployed) defending against large ballistic type missiles (Scuds, Iranian Shihabs) in conjunction with a THEL based laser system for short range targets like Katyushas and Qassams - Israel would have a two tiered highly effective defensive missile platform, the first of its kind.
These technologies could spin-off to protect American troops and lives as well in the Middle East theatre, which is a worthy effort by all means of measurement. Further, the deterrence factor alone is worthy of note in preventing conflict from sparking in the first place with Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
A capable platform, and a growing need.
Clearly this is one technology not fit for the dust bin, it’s upsetting to note that MTHEL is in limbo these past short months, most especially in light of growing missile threats, a new HAMAS Terrorist Govt in the strip and West Bank, and the daily fear that Israeli residents on the border regions are experiencing with daily qassam attacks.
We can only hope that sane minds prevail, the US Military is no doubt taxed almost to the limit with the ongoing conflict in Iraq, the US government hit hard with spiralling homeland and defense security commitment costs, and Israel equally facing a serious tightening budget in Military spending..
But MTHEL seems like one platform that should be upped in priority, taken out of the holding pattern and pushed into dutiful service, to protect Civilians, and both Servicemen and Women’s lives from the scourge of Terrorists everywhere.
Read more on the MTHEL
[tags]Missile Defense, War on Terror, Israel[/tags]