The Israeli Ministry of Defense has approved funding to develop a high-powered laser interceptor.
Co-developed by the Directorate of Defense Research & Development, Rafale Defense, and Elbit Systems, the Iron Beam laser system will be integrated into Israel’s multi-tier air defense array consisting of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow.
Rafale unveiled the Iron Beam concept in 2014 as a cost-effective option to intercept rockets, mortars, and drones. The multi-kilowatt solid-state laser concept consisted of a pair of laser effectors combining their beams to destroy targets.
Minister of Defense Benny Gantz approved the allocation of a significant budget to develop the “Iron Beam”, a high-power laser system designed to intercept rockets, mortars, and UAVs. The MOD will sign an agreement with @RAFAELdefense in the coming days to develop the system pic.twitter.com/D3MILKQtIj
— Ministry of Defense (@Israel_MOD) March 17, 2022
Ready by 2023
The system has a range of up to 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) and destroys a target within four seconds of contact, National Interest reported, adding that it is compatible with many radars and can be mounted on a range of vehicles.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced in February that the system would be ready within a year, deployed experimentally for a year, and operationally thereafter.
Israeli MOD Announces Funding for Development & Production of Iron Beam Laser System: Rafael President & CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yoav Har-Even: “Rafael is proud to lead the development and supply of the ‘Iron Beam’ system, the most powerful laser system of its kind in the world." pic.twitter.com/9R2f4d1PhJ
— RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems (@RAFAELdefense) March 17, 2022
The Iron Beam reportedly costs $2,000 per shot compared to $100,000 to $150,000 per Iron Dome interception.
Explaining the economic rationale behind the system, Bennett said that intercepting a few hundred dollars worth of rocket with tens of thousands of dollars of Iron Dome battery tilts the fight in the enemy’s favor.
“This equation doesn’t make sense,” the prime minister stated.
“It allows [the terrorists] to launch more and more Kassams and for us to shed many millions on a ‘lightning strike’ and billions during a campaign. We decided to reak the equation, and it will be broken in only a few years.”
“If you can intercept a missile or rocket with an electric pulse that costs a few dollars, we are weakening the ring of fire that Iran has built on our borders.