Alongside production of the Iron Dome interceptor, Rafael is also in the midst of developing a solid-based laser system that is believed to be the future in short-range missile interception. The Jerusalem Post has learned that a prototype of the model is already used by the IDF Southern Command to detonate explosive devices planted alongside the border fence. "With the laser, there is no need to send troops across the border to destroy the bomb," one official explained. The Defense Ministry is also closely following the development of a Star Wars-like laser beam system recently ordered by the United States government to help defend troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan under the threat of short-range rockets and mortar shells. Called the Laser Air Defense System (LADS), the platform is under development by Raytheon in the US and was put on display earlier this month at the Farnborough defense expo in England. Israeli defense officials said that the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Directorate was closely tracking the development of the system and that if it was operational before the Iron Dome - currently under development by Rafael Defense Systems - it was possible that Israel would purchase it to help defend against mortars and Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. In June, Raytheon tested a prototype solid-state laser weapon which it said was designed to intercept rockets, mortars and missiles at significant ranges. LADS, according to the company, may be operational within the coming year and combines the capabilities of the 20-millimeter Phalanx rapid-fire cannon with the power and effectiveness of lasers to provide fast and precise direction of laser energy on target. In static ground testing conducted with the US government, the LADS demonstration used a proven, off-the-shelf solid-state laser coupled with commercially available optics technology to detonate 60-millimeter mortars at a range greater than 550 yards within the required time limit. "In just six short months, Raytheon and government engineers went from an idea to operational field-testing of a solid-state laser system that offers the potential of near-term protection for our troops," said Mike Booen, Raytheon's Missile Systems vice president of Advanced Missile Defense and Directed Energy Weapons. "Our solid-state LADS proves you don't have to wait another three to five years for solid-state lasers to have military utility on the battlefield. They are ready now, with no chemicals required."