Iron Beam laser weapon to enhance Israeli air defence

By Arie Egozi

Israel is rapidly advancing towards the development of a laser-based air defence system. According to Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Chairman of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel aims to have some laser-based air defence capabilities in place by this time next year.

The Chairman of Rafael disclosed this information in an interview with the radio station of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Steinitz stated that Israel will be the first nation to possess partial laser protection within a year.

“There might be total defence in two years — against shells, rockets, missiles, or anything else. This will keep us safe both in the South and the North,” Steinitz remarked.

Last year, Israel demonstrated a significant breakthrough in laser technology for air defence. This achievement was highlighted by successful ground-breaking tests of a high-power laser system, showcasing its capability to intercept various types of aerial threats, including UAVs. The development process has been accelerated due to the escalating threat posed by Iranian-made armed drones supplied to proxies in the Gulf and Middle East.

 

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According to Israeli defence sources, the U.S. Department of Defence has been briefed on the successful tests and the ongoing development of the system. Further progress is expected to lead to U.S. cooperation in the full-scale production and deployment of this innovative laser system.

The Israeli Ministry of Defence’s Directorate of Defence Research and Development (DDR&D) collaborated with Rafael to conduct the tests at an Israeli test range. The demonstrator effectively intercepted UAVs, mortars, rockets, and anti-tank missiles in various scenarios.

In December 2022, Lockheed Martin and Rafael signed a teaming agreement to jointly develop, test, and manufacture a High Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) in the U.S. and Israel. The future collaborative effort will be based on assets independently developed by Rafael and the Ministry of Defence’s Directorate of Defence Research and Development (DDR&D) as part of the Iron Beam project. This cooperation aims to create a system variant for the American market and others.

After years of joint development between the Ministry of Defence’s Directorate of Defence Research and Development (DDR&D) and Rafael, the Iron Beam project was initiated by the DDR&D. In the past year, the system underwent a series of tests that confirmed its operational capabilities.

 

 

Iron Beam, a 100kW-class High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS), is set to become the first operational system for ground-based air defense against threats like rockets, mortars, and UAVs, providing engagement at the speed of light. The integration of Iron Beam into Israel’s multi-layered air defense system is planned. This cost-effective and operationally efficient solution will counter emerging threats while safeguarding critical infrastructure, strategic sites, maneuvering forces, and population centers.

Sources suggest that the initial effort is focused on developing an electric 100-150 kW solid-state laser capable of intercepting rockets and missiles. The plan involves using two laser guns to generate the necessary power. A source in the defense industry noted that, to intercept more than just short-range rockets and missiles, Israel will require a laser generator capable of producing a 1 Mega Watt beam.

 

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