Air Defense: Phalanx Fitted With Laser and Passes Test


January11, 2007: Responding to an Israeli search (and offers of quick sales) for anti-rocket/ mortar systems, the company (Raytheon) that makes the Phalanx anti-ship missile system, has adapted a Phalanx to use a laser instead of a 20mm automatic cannon. The Phalanx radar can spot incoming object at up to 5,000 meters, and destroy them at up to 2,000 meters with its 20mm cannon. But by using an off-the-shelf solid state laser, Raytheon was able to detect and destroy a 60mm mortar shell (which is smaller than any current rocket) at  a range of "over 500 meters". The laser used can be powered by a generator, or commercial (off the grid) electrical power. Previous high powered lasers required a chemical energy system that was bulky, messy and expensive. If this modified Phalanx system is reliable, they could be used to protect towns and villages in areas, like southern Israel, where Palestinians fire home made rockets from Gaza. While the 20mm cannon has a longer range, the ammo is more expensive, and the shells will eventually come down in Gaza, where they may hit civilians. Then there's the expense. Even second hand Phalanx systems cost over a million dollars each. New ones can cost ten times that, although the price with the laser, instead of the complex, six barreled 20mm cannon, would be lower (perhaps $6 million each). The laser version would also be lighter, weighing no more than three tons.


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