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Iron Beam : Israel Set To Deploy Its Cutting-Edge Laser Defense System To Counter Hamas Rockets?

Israel is expediting the deployment of its cutting-edge directed-energy air defense system, dubbed ‘Iron Beam,’ in response to the escalation of conflict with the Hamas terrorist group.

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According to the German Die Welt report, this weapon system is set to see its deployment to intercept rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza or the Shiite organization Hezbollah from Lebanon.

The system, originally anticipated to be operational in a few years, will serve as the short-range component of the Israeli integrated missile defense system. The system can intercept hostile rockets, drones, artillery, and even mortar shells. 

While there hasn’t been official confirmation from the Israeli defense ministry regarding such deployment, a video, with over 2 million views, allegedly showcasing the Iron Beam in action against rockets fired by Hamas surfaced on the X. 

However, upon investigation, netizens pointed out that the footage actually sourced from the realistic war and military simulator Arma 3, and it has been edited and had its resolution reduced to give it a heightened sense of realism. 

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Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

The Iron Beam system is intended to work in tandem with the highly acclaimed Iron Dome. The Laser System is designed to enhance the effectiveness of Israel’s multi-layer air defense system.

The Iron Beam, also known as Magen or Light Shield, was publicly revealed during the Singapore Airshow on February 11, 2014, by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli defense contractor. 

This directed-energy weapon air defense system serves the purpose of neutralizing short-range projectiles that are too near for the Iron Dome system to effectively intercept. 

Its operational range extends up to 7 km (4.3 miles) and encompasses the ability to engage unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Rafael Advanced Defense Systems had previously stated that the high-energy Iron Beam system would be integrated with Israel’s Iron Dome by 2025. 

Currently, it is believed that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Rafael have access to prototype laser stations, which are insufficient to adequately cover the entirety of Israeli territory.

Hence, if the latest report from German media is accurate, the specific deployment locations for the laser system remain uncertain. 

Iron Beam Laser System

Confronted with the predominant threats of rockets and missiles, Israeli defense company Rafael developed David’s Sling and the Iron Dome, which are integral components of a multifaceted, integrated air defense system.

However, the high cost associated with each interception led the Israeli Ministry of Defense to request that Rafael explore a fresh approach—a complementary system that integrates laser energy interceptors as part of the Iron Dome. 

In April 2022, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced that its developed laser air defense system had effectively intercepted drones, rockets, mortars, and anti-tank missiles during its initial series of tests. 

At the time, the Ministry proudly stated that Israel was among the first nations to successfully harness laser technology to create a functional air defense system, showcasing interceptions in real operational scenarios.

With a continuous energy supply for the laser, the advantage lies in never depleting ammunition, ensuring a sustained capability for defense. The absence of conventional ammunition will directly result in significant cost savings from production and logistics for the country.  

A target is intercepted by the ‘Iron Beam’ laser-based air defense system, over southern Israel, March 2022. (Defense Ministry)

A single interceptor missile fired from the Iron Dome system can cost between $40,000 to $50,000. In contrast, Israel has stated that achieving a similar interception using the Iron Beam system could cost as little as $2.

Yet, a limitation of laser systems is their diminished effectiveness during restricted visibility, such as heavy cloud cover or adverse weather conditions. 

To overcome this limitation, Israel plans to mount the system on an airplane, aiming to bypass the challenge by positioning the system above the clouds. However, this implementation is still a few years away from becoming a reality.

The Iron Beam system utilizes a fiber laser to eliminate airborne targets. It can function independently or integrate with external cueing as an integral part of an air-defense system. When the surveillance system identifies a threat, vehicle platforms track and engage the target accordingly. 

Nonetheless, while the Iron Dome system is consistently demonstrating its effectiveness with kill rates exceeding 90 percent in various scenarios, the performance of Iron Beam is yet to be determined.

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