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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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By crystal clear on 3/14/2008 7:57:04 AM , Rating: 2
Prevention is bettter than cure as often quoted is the solution to the problem.

An expensive high tech solution as a cure to the problem is not the solution.
There are many practical & less expensive solutions that can stop this menace of rocket attacks.

I know Israel very well from the geographical,political & also from the military point of view.

The kasam rockets as they are referred to are basically a crude homemade rocket launched from equally crude launchers.

A picture of the rocket+launcher would have helped readers understand what its all about.

This is not a katusha rocket manufactured by Russia .

It has no guidance system nor any fixed predetermined range or settings,with zero reliability rate.

The moment its launched anything can happen.

It can take off a few metres in the air & fall down,it can explode at launch,it can take off & land anywhere/anytime.

In short its plain crude ...

These rockets made in Gaza use raw material smuggled across the border with EGYPT.
The funding/money comes from Iran via the hamas-a terrorist organization.

The nomadic tribes roaming the Sinai desert are involved in smuggling anything for money.

From explosives to drugs to human beings(refugees) across the border into Gaza & Israel.

Refer to the maps - Egypt has a common border with Gaza & Israel.

Egypt border patrols function just as good as non existant or simply corrrupt.

Given this background the raw materials are easily smuggled into GAZA.

You do not need a multi million dollar system to protect the residents.

There more practical/cheaper solutions to protect the residents from the rockets.

1) Egypt intensify & stop cross border smugglings to prevent flow of raw materials to manufacture these rockets.
This will automatically stop the manufacture of these rockets.

2) Israel take military action to dismantle Hamas & other terror organization in Gaza.
In addition the international community namely the USA,E.U. & the U.N. support such action,without any condemnation or sanctions applied on Israel.

3) The international community jointly act to stop countries like Iran & people/organizations funding to terrorist operating in GAZA.

In short Gaza has become another Lebonen controlled by a Iran backed terror organization with tacit support from Syria.

If Egypt does not act decisively to stop cross border smuggling then only military action can stop these rockets falling into Israel.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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