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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 PrinceGaz on 3/16/2008 11:05:58 PM , Rating: 3
What? Every person's life is important, regardless of who they are. You can't say a particular group is more important than another for some arbitrary reason like race or religion, then use it to support the "more important" group using their more advanced military hardware to invade and occupy the land of surrounding countries.

Are we going to have a world-ranking of who is important and who isn't, then use that to determine which countries can freely use their armed-forces against others without retribution. If so, let's go back to the days where countries built empires by conquering others.

It's not like the Jewish population is in danger of extinction. As you say, it is only an immeasurably smaller minority in the region. They seem to be doing pretty well. Very well actually as they have recently decided to build more settlements in occupied territory. Land they have no right to use. Is it any wonder that some of the rightful owners of the land retaliate the best way they can (primitive random rocket attacks, and in extreme cases suicide bombers- it takes a lot to sacrifice yourself for a cause, I sure as hell wouldn't in any but the worst scenario). Meanwhile Israel respond with advanced jet-fighters bombing various targets (usually causing civilian casualties), and sending tanks rolling through territory they are not yet occupying and firing on anyone they think might be a threat.

It's about time that Israel started to obey international law, rather than ignoring countless UN resolutions against them because the US support Israel and that stops action being taken against them).


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