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Nautilus Tactical High Energy Laser  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

Effective range of Kassam and Katyusha rockets.  (Source: Koret Communications Ltd.)
Residents in Sderot have had enough of rocket attacks and want the laser-based Nautilus system in place

DailyTech recently discussed the use of military-grade laser used as weapons in a number of articles. Boeing installed a 12,000-pound, high-energy laser into its C-130H Gunship and Northrop Grumman has similar "laser ambitions" with the Guardian anti-missile system installed in an MD-10 cargo jet.

While Americans are typically apathetic to the use of such technology for military duties, some residents in Israel are clamoring to have laser-based weapons as a safety net for their towns. Sderot residents have gone so far as to sue the Israeli government -- more specifically, they named Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as defendants in the civil suit.

The Sderot residents want the Israeli government to install the Nautilus Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) system to protect the region from Kassam and Katyusha rockets. Sderot has been heavily bombarded with such rockets over the years which have resulted in numerous deaths. The residents feel that suing the government may be its only chance for protection against further attacks.

"Israel could bring the system to Sderot and use it to protect the people there from Kassam rockets," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner who heads the Israel Law Center which represents the Sderot residents. "In 1996, when Israel was under threat from Lebanon, Israel asked the United States to help them establish a system to protect northern settlements from Katyusha rockets. This system, called Nautilus, shot down Katyushas, Kassams and bombs with 100 percent success."

Unfortunately for the Sderot residents, the Nautilus program stalled in 2005 after ten years of development and $400 million USD spent between Israel and the United States. Since that time, rocket fire has increased which has led the Israeli government to develop yet another system dubbed "Iron Dome." The Iron Dome system will cost the government $100,000 for each incoming rocket it destroys – if it destroys them at all. Recent tests show that Iron Dome is incapable of protecting Sderot from incoming Kassam rockets.

"[Nautilus is] just sitting there in New Mexico. There is a way to take it apart, bring it to Israel and rebuild it," Darshan-Leitner continued. "A company told me that it would take no longer than five or six months. It would cost around 50 million dollars to rebuild it, but there would be unlimited protection against Katyushas, Kassams, and bombs."

Despite Darshan-Leitner's optimism of the performance of the Nautilus system -- she quotes an extremely optimistic 100 perfect effective rate -- a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Ministry says that such claims are preposterous. "As long as there was a chance that the results would lead to a functional, effective missile defense system we stuck with the program. But in 2005 the US military backed out of the program because it wasn't working, and we decided to end our involvement as well," said spokesman Shlomo Dror.

Despite the concerns from Sderot residents, Dror tried to express that the government is working hard to provide protection for its citizens.

"There is no way to put a price tag on the trauma caused by living with the ongoing threat from, and even more for people injured or even killed by Kassam attacks, God forbid," said Dror. "We are spending as much as we need to in order to develop the most effective system we can to protect residents of Sderot and the entire western Negev region."

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RE: Takin' the high road...
By Captain Orgazmo on 3/13/2008 7:16:23 PM , Rating: 2
Of course civilians are not valid targets (at least not for civilized nations), but Hamas launches the rockets from heavily populated residential neighborhoods to prevent counter-battery fire from Israel. By doing so, Hamas puts civilians in harm's way, as every nation has the right to defend itself (according to the UN and every treaty and agreement ever signed).

In any case, this was not my point, only that I am impressed at the restraint and morality of the people who live in these constantly bombarded towns. When London was bombed in the Blitz, the British wanted (and got) blood; in this particular instant, the Israelis only want not to be bombed.

RE: Takin' the high road...
By brheault on 3/14/2008 1:26:31 PM , Rating: 1
Well, you kind of predictably leave a few things out. I mean, is it any coincidence you didn't mention the fact that Israel has been occupying Gaza and the West Bank for decades? You piously appeal to the "UN and every treaty and agreement ever signed" to invoke Israel's right to defend itself by killing civilians, but does it matter here that the ENTIRE world besides Israel and its US backer have condemned the occupation as illegal. Aggression is illegal, and that's what happened back in '67 resulting in the occupation ever since. According to the principles we established at the Nuremberg trials after WWII, aggression is the supreme international crime differing only from other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole. So when we see occupied Gazans firing rockets into Israel (as I bet you wouldn't have a problem doing if friggin' Minnesota was occupied by a foreign power) then according to the principles we established ultimate responsibility lies with the occupier.

As for the restraint and morality of the Israeli people, all I can say is that in my experience that's particularly true of the peace movement there, the ones who are calling for the end to the settlements and military occupation. But when you say the Israelis "only want not to be bombed" you miss one the main reasons for the occupation. It is perhaps not a coincidence all the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are built on the best water aquifers, and in fact according declassified documents the military planners talked a lot about water during the war of '67, even more so than they talked about "security". I think they want just a little more than not to be bombed, they want the natural resources of the region for themselves. Gaza is the biggest open air prison in the world, they don't control their borders and have lived under another people's military rule for decades, until we can deal honesty and openly with that we have no right talking about this issue. Every American who loves freedom should take up their cause as if their own freedom were being threatened.

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