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The system named “Iron Beam” (Light Shield, Magen Or in Hebrew), the first of its kind, is designed to destroy short-range projectiles that are too close for the Iron Dome system to intercept effectively.
Israel may deploy its new cutting-edge laser weapon system to its active combat service for the first time to support its air defense capabilities against aerial threats. The system is designed to destroy short-range rockets, artillery, and mortar bombs and will act as the short-range component of the Israeli integrated missile defense system. The system was unveiled at the Singapore Airshow in 2014, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and was not supposed to hit the market for several years.
The Iron Beam system is based on solid-state lasers, which is cheaper to use and less environmentally dangerous than chemical laser and is designed to destroy short-range projectiles (up to 10 km) that are too close for the Iron Dome system to intercept effectively. It can intercept targets over enemy territory before they cross into Israel- it locks onto the object using a thermal sensor and shoots a powerful laser beam that destroys it.
The system is planned as an additional layer of defense under Israel’s multi-layer integrated missile defense system: Iron Dome (against short-range missiles), David’s Sling (against medium-range, ballistic, and cruise missiles), and the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems (for intercepting long-range ballistic missiles in and out of the atmosphere).
Iron Beam can operate both as a stand-alone system or with external cueing as part of an air-defense system. The advantages of using a directed energy weapon over conventional missile interceptors are first and foremost minimal costs per shot, lower operational costs, less manpower, quieter action, unlimited shots, and the ability to neutralize the threat over the area it was launched from and not over populated areas, unlike Iron Dome.
In December 2022 Rafael and Lockheed Martin announced they would collaborate in developing the system, therefore enabling the future integration of the system in the US Military.
Rafael also unveiled the Naval version of the Iron Beam system in May of 2023, which is meant to be installed on ships to protect them against a series of threats.