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.