Short Range Air Defense

Aerial attacks come at different altitudes in the battlespace. In order to protect the territory from all of these attacks, the defense is divided into three main components that handle the different areas and ranges.

THAAD or terminal high altitude area defense takes care of the farthest threats, while HIMAD or high to medium air defense handles those that are in the middle ranges. SHORAD or short-range air defense is the category of anti-aircraft weaponry that protects the ground territory from low-altitude aircraft weapons and other nearby aerial threats. These threats are mostly low-flying close air support jets and helicopters. 

A Brief History of SHORAD

Historically, short-range air defense units were entrenched mainly in the Army for the protection against low-flying enemy aircraft, primarily planes and helicopters. In 2005, air defense artillery units became more in demand as attacks from unmanned aerial systems increased in conflicts in different parts of the world. 

Capabilities of SHORAD Systems

Tackling incoming aerial threats from within a short distance is not an easy task. To be efficient in providing protection, a SHORAD system must have a few important components and capabilities.

Compatibility with Current IAMD Systems

Integrated Air and Missile Defense or IAMD is the modern day version of the conventional surface to air missile defense system. An excellent SHORAD system should be fully integrated with the existing architecture of IAMD, allowing for the easy and systematic taking out of air threats.

Command and Control

The ability to sense incoming threats would be futile without clear and accurate communication to ensure total situational awareness. There should be a means to provide a distinct and precise single integrated air picture to each of the weapons in the SHORAD system, together with weapon control and orders for engagement.

Aerial Threat Warning 

Despite the high accuracy in countering aerial attacks and supreme precision in taking out short-range aerial threats, there should always be a warning system for the protection of ground troops and civilians.

From the Iron Dome to the Laser Sword

iron dome

The Defense Ministry of Israel made a major announcement – the Israeli defense system is expanding with the development of a new major weapon:

the country is currently developing a “Laser Sword” to face threats. At the beginning of January 2020, Israel has announced that this project is now entering in the phase of battlefield testing, and that if things go as anticipated, lasers should be deployed by the end of the year. 

The air defense system of Israel is already composed of several layers, including the Iron Dome, David’ Sling and Arrow 3. This system is built in order to counter different levels of threats, from mortars to ballistic missiles. The Iron Dome, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, has revealed itself as an efficient short-range anti-rocket system against the 2,600 rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel over the last two years alone. The Iron Dome is able to intercept and destroy the rockets whose trajectory has beforehand been identified. 

Yet, Israel’s anticipation of a more complex warfare to come in the context of tension with Iran and its proxies have led to two major moves in the field of defense systems. First of all, the improvement of the abilities of the Iron Dome. On January 2020, the Iron Dome was declared to be 100% accurate. Second, is the development of the Laser Sword, as announced on January 8th. Lasers, combined to the Iron Dome, mean the ability to intercept a larger array of threats, including rockets, mortars, missiles, anti-tank guided missiles, drones and cruise missiles. Therefore, the goal of Israel is to have the Laser Sword become a crucial player in the politico-military landscape and eventually, an argument in favor of peace. To reach this goal, the Laser Sword should pass field tests to ultimately complete the current capacities of the Iron Dome. 

It has to be noted that the Laser Sword is a heavy and expensive weapon. The cost of each shell is approximately 50,000 USD and the cost of each laser shot is 3.50 USD. 

The development of the Laser Sword and of the new version of the Iron Dome come together with the implementation of a highly sophisticated defensive wall on Gaza’s border. The defensive wall is at a height of 6 meters, has a sufficient depth to ensure security against infiltration tunnels and reaches below the coastline to counter navy attacks.

Rafael’s Litening targeting pod – Most loved battle equipment


We have all witnessed in the movies how bombs are dropped off during the combat from fighter aircraft

The protagonist creates huge blasts on the ground by just clicking a button and the way it is portrayed, it all seems so easy and simple. 

But is it all so easy and simple? It is astonishing to see the sophistication of technology and equipment that goes in a single drop of the missile and how much the technological advancements have upgraded the battlegrounds. It is also important to acknowledge the real heroes, the companies and the manufacturers who are pushing the boundaries continuously and are not stopping.

 Defense System
Rafael Air Defense System

One such invention, which took the air to ground combat by storm is Litening targeting pod. Litening targeting pod is one of the most famous and effective tools which play an important role during the attack and has also received loads of love from the defence forces all around the world. 

Air to ground combat requires instant action and precision. The identification of the targets in the given time frame plays the most crucial role in the destruction of the threat. Bombs cannot be dropped off anywhere and hence pilots have to make sure that the expensive missiles and weapons are killing the right targets.

Recognising the call for innovation, Israel began the research and development for the Litening targeting pod in 1992 and the project was awarded to Rafael, the Israel defence contractor. In the year 1995, this project was joined by Northrop Grumman, the American global aerospace and defence technology company and was jointly developed by both.

The main job of Litening targeting pod is to target and track the threats, which reduces the crew’s workload and helps them focus on other missions. This targeting pod is equipped with MWIR, SWIR, HD sensors and carries out multiple tasks like threat detection, identification, tracking multiple stationery as well as mobile targets and location extraction. Not only this, Litening targeting pod is supported by advanced image processing, which helps in generating extremely accurate coordinates of the target.   

The Litening targeting pod functions day and night, capable of rendering accurate information even in the harshest weather condition. The high-end sensors provide exceptional image quality of the threats, hence helping in minimizing the collateral damage. Another feature of this targeting pod is it is based on open architecture, which makes it future proof. The manufacturers have provided sufficient space inside the pod for future upgrades as per the requirements.

The pod is compatible with various fighter aircraft and is mounted externally.  Some of the hardware that goes in this pod comprises of a CCD camera and FLIR, which is stands for the forward-looking infrared sensor.

We can easily say that this was one of the most successful projects by Rafael, which managed to grab the world’s attention. Today, the Litening targeting pod have successfully logged more than 2 million flying hours worldwide. These pods are being used by 27 Air forces all around the world and the company has effectively delivered more than 800 pods to US Marine Corps, US Air National guards, USAF and other forces.

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