The Israeli air force has successfully tested an airborne laser system that quickly dispatched drones in flight. The system, built by the air force with Elbit Systems, is mounted on a Cessna Caravan and easily blasted all the drones it encountered on the test. Israel tweeted it is “among the first countries in the world to demonstrate such capabilities” and of course there is video. 

Elbit Systems said the system found, tracked and engaged drones “at various ranges and altitudes.” On the Caravan, the laser is mounted on the side of the fuselage and the cabin is packed with all the gear needed to track and target the drones. Israel left no doubt that it’s the tip of the iceberg. “This is the first phase in a multi-year program to develop an advanced airborne laser system that will add another layer to Israel’s multi-tier defense array, complementing the capabilities of the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow systems,” the Israeli defense ministry said.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Lucky for Israel they are the lap dog of the US, try that against a US drone and it would just fire a missile, shoot down your Cessna, and then carry right on doing what it wanted in the first place.

    • Gee, thanks for exposing your anti-life ideology.

      Israel is the most democratic and productive nation in the cesspool called ‘Middle East’.

      You aren’t even logical. Weapons used by Hamas and like Iranian proxies are cheap, so they can be made in Gaza and like places, and by militia in places like Syria, of smuggled materials. And are not a huge loss when Israel locates the stockpile and wipes it out. Apparently Hamas is not firing relatively many Communist Chinese missiles that Iran supplied in the past.

      Of course Hamas does not care about civilian casualties – an amazing proportion of its missiles fell inside Gaza.

    • That’s so wrong in so many ways I don’t know where to start. I’m just going to point out that this was a test, and see how you react.

  2. Israel also has a laser companion to its Iron Dome rockets, to shoot down missiles.

    Tracking of targets is key to such defence systems, identification of targets also crucial (Israel probably has IFF on its UAVs, so just shoots down everything else).

    • The use of small airplanes avoids the problem of cloud cover.

      There’s also ‘Spade Dome’ against tunnels from Gaza, a variety of tactics including vertical plates. But in the recent big fight, Israel probably inferred it was going to invade Gaza, that drew Hamas into tunnels which Israel then destroyed with bombs dropped from airplanes. If true, clever way to minimize civilian casualties while annihilating Gaza military. (Like many totalitarian regimes, Hamas embeds itself among civilians so that it gets good publicity from their deaths.)

  3. God’s Chosen People. Pity the fool who tries to harm the apple of the eye of The Lord Of Heaven’s Armies.

    Deuteronomy 32:10

    “He found him in a desert land,
    And in the howling waste of a wilderness;
    He encircled him, He cared for him,
    He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.”

    Zechariah 2:8

    For thus says the Lord of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. “

    There are two other references on these lines and dozens of other references to God’s special love and protection of the Jewish people.

    Most recently evidenced in 1948 and reiterated during the Six Day War.

    • Well, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

      Israelis worked hard and smart to be ready for the attack by Arab states in 1948, Including buying weapons (one woman went to the US and raised a huge amount of money from non-government sources), running a bullets factory under the nose of British occupiers, and training-training-training. Plus motivation to protect a place for Jews.

      Yes, aided by stupidity in ranks of its enemies – erratic politically-connected officers from Egypt, in command of Jordan’s military by pact, greatly harmed Jordan’s efforts.

      • Agree on all counts of both your thoughtful posts Keith. The story of the War Of Independence is many faceted and fascinating.

  4. Beam power and the related time-on-target pointing requirements could be thought of as the laser weapon equivalent of the rail gun’s rail erosion problem, a possibly show-stopping barrier to an otherwise attractive concept. Something simple as programming the drone to make erratic movements which constantly alter the presented aspect can vastly increase the tracking/pointing sophistication needed to maintain time on target, and compensating with increased beam power rapidly hits practical limits, particularly for an airborne system.

    Still, countering relatively unsophisticated drones is a major Israeli objective, and it does appear they are close to a system that would be at least somewhat effective at that.

  5. I agree it’s a little like burning a hole in a leaf with a magnifying glass. Takes time on target. Probably overcome-able with more power and less time on target and/or high speed tracking to move hot spot as target moves.

    • Agreed, smaller more agile drones would be a challenge. But hey, ya gotta start somewhere with a system like this

  6. Necessity is the mother of invention, and these people are surrounded by people who want to kill them. We, on the other hand, have a perception of safety that is somewhat of an illusion, but still convincing. No wonder our weapons are mostly chosen based on how many jobs they create in certain congressional districts.

    • Disgusting statement concerning government procurement, but I’ve seen supporting evidence.

  7. 2004 the United States developed the Boeing YAL-1 (747-400). 17 years and they’re using a Cessna 208 Caravan. Another 5 years and they’ll probably being using a supersonic drone. When it comes to weapons, no one needs to approve it and sign it off. Who knows what’s top secret in the laser weapon’s world?