‘LASER DOME’: Rafael, Lockheed Developing Next-Gen Missile Defense System To Make Israeli Airspace ‘Impregnable’

US defense giant Lockheed Martin and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence System will jointly develop a ground-based laser weapon system for the Israeli military.

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This will supplement the existing multi-layered air defense system of the Jewish nation, which includes the famous ‘Iron Dome’ missile batteries.

An agreement to this effect was signed on July 27. The two companies will “also explore opportunities to market this system in the US,” according to a statement released by Lockheed Martin.

The laser technology in military pursuits provides a number of advantages like precision, scalability, prevention of collateral damage caused by fragmenting ammunition, among others.

Laser weapon systems offer precise capabilities to counter multiple threats, including rockets and drones, Rafael and Lockheed Martin said.

An artist’s rendering of how a laser defense system would function. (via The Jerusalem Post)

“This agreement captures the commitment of Lockheed Martin and Rafael to work together with their respective governments to support this important collaborative opportunity,” the statement said, adding that “the companies will explore opportunities and technology implementations for developing a ground-based laser weapon system.”

In the recent past, Israel’s defense ministry has been working to develop a robust laser technology system for its military and has made considerable progress as well.

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Tim Cahill, Lockheed Martin Senior Vice President, Global Business Development, said “Israel’s defense challenges underscored the vital importance of increasing Israel’s capability to address rocket attacks. We are honored to work with the Israeli Government and industry to address this critical security need that will support Israel’s national security.”

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“Rafael is a world-class defense company, and we look forward to expanding our existing collaboration by leveraging our respective capabilities in high energy laser systems to address this growing threat,” he added.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli defense ministry had announced in June that a series of drone interceptions using an airborne laser system in a civilian aircraft had already taken place.

Ariel Karo, EVP, marketing and business development at Rafael, said, “We are honored and proud to initiate another channel of cooperation with our long-time partner Lockheed Martin, to develop a Laser solution against a variety of existing and emerging threats.

These capabilities will widen our multi-layered air defense umbrella based on our wide mutual expertise and deep operational experience that is based on multi-disciplinary technologies and best-of-breed systems.”

The Iron Beam laser system, developed by Rafael. (via Twitter)

Israel is among the first countries in the world to succeed in integrating laser technology into aircraft and intercepting targets in an operational scenario.

The laser technology system is being developed to supplement the existing air defense systems of Israel. At present, the Jewish nation is protected by a multi-layered defense system, which includes the Arrow-2, Arrow-3, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome missile batteries.

In addition, the Israeli military operates Iron Beam laser system. Also developed by Rafael, the system can destroy short-range rockets, artillery, and mortar bombs. It boasts the same range of up to 7 km (4.3 mi) as that of Iron Dome.

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Brig-Gen Yaniv Rotem, head of the ministry’s Military R&D, said that the ground system will also be able to destroy targets at a range of eight to ten kilometers with a 100-kilowatt laser.

The ground-to-air laser capable of downing rockets and other projectile weapons is expected to be developed by 2024.

Written by Anshruta Banerjee