Iron Beam: Israel tests advanced laser defence system during ongoing war

By Arie Egozi

The prototype of the Iron Beam, the Israeli system designed to destroy aerial threats with a powerful laser beam, has been deployed for advanced testing near the Gaza Strip during the ongoing war. Two years ago, after a long "war" between the proponents and opponents of a laser-based defence system, the program was officially started.

 

Sources say that the initial effort is to develop an electric 100-150 kW solid-state laser capable of intercepting rockets and missiles. The idea is to use two laser guns to create the needed power. A source in the defence industry said that to have a system capable of intercepting more than short-range rockets and missiles, Israel will need a laser generator capable of producing a 1 MegaW beam.

 

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Following a series of discussions, the Israeli Defence Ministry allocated hundreds of millions of NIS for the development and production of the Iron Beam system. The development plan for Iron Beam is led by the Directorate of Defence Research and Development (DDR&D) in the Ministry of Defence, together with Rafael and Elbit Systems. Following the initial investment, the next stage will include the allocation of additional hundreds of millions of NIS to complete the process.

 

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In the past, Israel and the U.S. cooperated on the development of the Nautilus, a laser “cannon” that could kill rockets. The Nautilus was a Tactical High-Energy Laser, or THEL. In 1996, the United States and Israel agreed to cooperate on the development and production of the Nautilus. In 2000, the demonstrator managed to shoot down 28 Katyusha artillery rockets and five artillery shells. On November 4, 2002, THEL shot down an incoming artillery shell. The prototype weapon was very big and heavy and could not get smaller mainly because of the specifications of the chemical laser generator. The program was discontinued in 2005.

The opposition to the laser weapon in Israel led to the development of the Iron Dome and David’s Sling.

 

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