The Iron Beam is designed to intercept a wide range of threats, such as rocket artillery projectiles, mortar shells, and drones, from distances ranging from hundreds of meters to several kilometers. High-energy laser weaponry offers a significant cost advantage, with each shot costing only a few dollars, in contrast to the estimated cost of USD 40,000 to USD 50,000 for the Tamir interception missile used by the Iron Dome air defence system.
Rafael has been developing laser technology for over 20 years, but a substantial breakthrough was achieved in recent research. It has now become possible to maintain a focused beam long enough to neutralize threats from substantial distances. In March 2022, the Israeli military conducted a series of successful tests using the Iron Beam, during which the prototype destroyed incoming drones, mortar shells, rockets, and anti-tank missiles. Originally, the laser system was planned for adoption into the IDF’s arsenal in 2025. However, current circumstances have necessitated an accelerated timetable.
While Iron Beam will not eliminate the need for the Iron Dome missile system, it is intended to complement it effectively. In the optimal scenario, once fully integrated into Israel’s multi-layered air defence system, operators will have the choice to neutralize threats using either traditional missiles or the more cost-effective laser. Currently, only prototype laser stations are available to the military and the manufacturer, which are insufficient to cover all threatened areas. Therefore, lasers are expected to defend only the directions most vulnerable to attacks.