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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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The Bottom Line
By Ringold on 3/14/2008 4:36:23 AM , Rating: 2
So many college degrees, so many graduate degrees, and yet so many of you running in circles playing the blame game -- even Kristopher, pointing out who owned what when and the relative prosperity of the time.

The bottom line is that everyone over there with a functional head on their shoulders is, or should be, aware of what 'peace' will ultimately look like. It'll most likely look extremely similar to what Clinton brokered at Camp David. Ehud Barak knows it, and wants it; I know because I was lucky enough to meet him. It's the obvious solution. It doesn't matter, it never matters, who did what to whom first. All that matters is the current reality and how best to fix things. When Ehud Barak gave a talk to a private group here in Florida, he said it was only a matter of time until everyone involved finally accepted it.

If you think back to your government school educations, what would a teacher do when two children were squabling? She'd tell them both to stop it. If she were real touchy-feely, might even force both to apologize to each other. Doesn't even matter who started it. If that mattered, Mexico would still be planning to retake much of the Western United States and native American's would be blowing themselves up in Starbucks.

That doesnt mean it's easy to do, particularly for Hamas to finally bury the hatchet; my impression is that Israel is ready to sign a peace treaty today if they felt Palestinians would keep their end of the bargain. Likewise, that insecurity will mean it'll be difficult for Israel to withdraw; every time they do, they have to rush back in because the areas they evacuate are just turned in to enemy bases. Unfortunately though, easy or not, that is the only way for it to end. All you with those advanced degrees should realize that is exactly how it ended in Northern Ireland; the British still control it, the IRA just had to accept reality and bury the hatchet. It wasn't easy, but as I understand it former IRA leaders are now running the place -- legally. Imagine the day when Israel elects a man of Palestinian descent to Prime Minister. It'll happen, it always does. Some of you might balk, but in 1860 Mississippi would've sooner shot Obama than to of allowed him to even run in a Democrat presidential primary. Today he's ahead in delegates for that same party, and he won that state.

Until the Palestinians get with the program, and until they both happen to simultaneously have leaders ready to sign off on an arrangement, this'll all continue just the way it has.

By the way, for a tech site, I'm doubly disappointed. Captain Kirk and Captain Picard, if I'm not mistaken, both came across groups locked in perpetual, generations-long feuds. They just had to bury the hatchet, regardless of who started it. Everything you need to know about life, guys, can be learned from Star Trek.

RE: The Bottom Line
By theapparition on 3/14/2008 11:51:19 AM , Rating: 2
Great post Ringold. Truely first rate.

Yes, there have always been injustices. You can't fall back on petty childish "well they started it..." rhetoric. To move forward, you have to accept that what happend and look toward a solution.

Israel is not going anywhere. The Palestinians are going anywhere. Either each side learns to play nice, or one will destroy the other (or both). I think the majority of people in the region are willing for peace, but like most things, it's the very vocal (read: armed) minority that screws it up.

RE: The Bottom Line
By os008 on 3/14/2008 1:20:51 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed nice point of view, i've always said that the internal parties of Palestine are the ones screwing everything up. I always wish they'd stop for a second and think ... why don't we stop giving the world an excuse to think we're extremists, and that Israel has the right to strike us, we should be the ones getting the attention and heart of the world, not the other way around.

Hope that happens soon.

I think after all those posts, and all those years of talks (more than 50), it comes down to the problems amongst the Arabs themselves. Also, outside of the Arab world people don't know what we say to each others ... we're always angry and furious at how each of us is in his own world, not caring about his neighbor, and just want power for himself, and leaving those stupid extremists (Muslims extremists) reek havok to those poor people inside Palestine.

RE: The Bottom Line
By JustTom on 3/14/2008 12:29:43 PM , Rating: 2
If you think back to your government school educations, what would a teacher do when two children were squabling? She'd tell them both to stop it.

Interesting analogy, but it breaks down because there is no outside force with enough influence and power (teacher) to seperate the squabling children (Hamas/Israel). Clinton could not do it and I doubt anyone can anytime soon.

While the problems of Northern Ireland are an often brought up to make the case that solutions are possible the underlying problem with this comparasion is civilians on both sides were tired of the killing. And, at least at this point, this is hardly the case in the Middle East.

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