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US Seeks to Fund Israeli Laser-Based Air Defense System

The US administration has asked Congress to invest $1.2 billion in Israel’s directed energy weapon system called the Iron Beam.

The amount is included in the $106 billion emergency supplemental funding request to support allies’ defense needs, including Israel and Ukraine.

Iron Beam could supplement the Pentagon’s directed energy air defense system, the Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL).

The US Marine Corps has already adapted Israel’s Iron Dome for its Medium-Range Intercept Capability program, planning to procure three batteries.

Iron Beam

Israeli defense contractor Rafael is developing the system as a cost-effective option to the Iron Dome short-range air defense system with a reported $2,000 per shot, compared to $100,000 to $150,000 per Iron Dome interception.

The twin high-energy fiber-optic laser reportedly has a range of 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) with the capacity to destroy a target such as a rocket or mortar shell within 4 seconds of contact.

“If [the Israelis] are successful, that certainly could be something the Army could think about leveraging,” C4ISRNET quoted US Army’s acquisition chief Doug Bush as saying.

Rafael's laser beam
Rafael’s laser beam. Photo: Israeli Ministry of Defense

Israeli and US Laser-Based Systems

Bush said that the Israeli system is primarily designed to intercept short-range targets such as rockets, mortar, and drones, while the IFPC-HEL has a slightly broader role.

“They have a very specific problem they’re trying to solve with rockets and things like that, where the Army system goes a little broader — cruise missiles perhaps, things like that,” the outlet quoted him.

Differences and Similarities

Elaborating further, Bush told Defense Scoop that their differences could be on “how the laser beam is formed and aimed … and its different power levels as well.”

Iron Beam generates a power of 100 kilowatt, while the US Army recently contracted Lockheed Martin to develop up to four 300-kilowatt laser weapon systems for the IFPC-HEL prototype program. 

Lockheed is scheduled to develop and deliver the prototypes by October 2025.

Iron Beam is being developed for integration with Israel’s multi-layered air defense array consisting of the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow.

Similarly, the IFPC-HEL is expected to fill the capability gap between the Pentagon’s short-range air defense systems, the Patriot, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

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