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Lockheed Martin signs agreement with Israel’s Rafael to join Iron Beam laser weapon project

Ground-based Iron Beam air-defense system is designed to work with Israel’s other air-defense systems, such as the Iron Dome

The Iron Beam laser-based air defense system during a test in southern Israel, March 2022. (Photo: Israeli Defense Ministry)

American defense contractor Lockheed Martin signed an agreement on Monday with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to join Israel in directed-energy air-defense development. 

According to the agreement, Lockheed Martin will team up with its Israeli counterpart to develop, test and manufacture a variant of the “Light Shield,” or Iron Beam, ground-based laser air-defense system for American and other markets.

Israel’s Iron Beam is the first-ever operational laser-weapon defense system geared towards intercepting rockets, mortars and remotely piloted aircraft. The ground-based Iron Beam air-defense system is designed to work with Israel’s other air-defense systems, such as the Iron Dome. 

The cooperation agreement between Lockheed Martin and Rafael will build on work already done by Rafael in cooperation with the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development.

“This strategic teaming agreement serves as a force multiplier for Rafael and the Israeli market,” CEO and President of Rafael Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yoav Har-Even said in a statement. “We are working to ensure our customers receive the most advanced, effective and best-in-class systems. This agreement will expand and diversify the capabilities we can offer to a variety of customers.”

The laser weapon system will contribute to the protection of Israel’s infrastructure, strategic areas and population centers against various air-based threats.

“We see the capability of Iron Beam, which was developed alongside the DDR&D, as a technological breakthrough, with its proven effectiveness against some of the most sophisticated threats including rockets, mortars, drones and UAVs, including in swarms,” said Rafael’s Executive Vice President Ran Gozali, who works as the head of the Land and Naval Systems Directorate at the company. 

“The system is designed to provide defense against emerging threats in today’s complex battlefield, bolstering the strength of the Israeli homefront, and is a catalyst for forging bilateral collaborations,” Gozali said.

The Iron Beam initiative is far from new, with Rafael and the Defense R&D Directorate working together for years to develop the laser-defense system and going through tests which proved its operational capabilities last year.

“Over the last three decades, alongside the DDR&D and the Israeli Defense Ministry, Rafael has invested in laser research and development, resulting in Iron Beam, and we expect [the HELWS] to become the first operational laser defense system of its kind,” Har-Even said. “This serves as a clear example of Israeli-made capabilities, leading to strategic cooperation that will greatly benefit both sides.”

Lockheed Martin, for its part, said it was “honored” to team up with Israel.  

“Lockheed Martin’s mission is to deliver the best security solutions that help our customers stay ahead of their adversaries,” Lockheed Martin COO Frank St. John said. “Working with Rafael, our joint team will help bring this new, life-saving capability to our customers. This unique capability will enhance Israel’s vital air- and missile-defense system with state-of-the-art laser technology, and we are honored by the opportunity to expand Lockheed Martin’s role as a security teammate for the State of Israel.”

Lockheed Martin Israel CEO Joshua Shani said the Iron Beam project is yet another chapter in the company's years-long cooperation efforts with Israel. 

“Lockheed Martin is entering a new area of operations in Israel,” Shani said. “As a leader of technology, our aerial platforms, such as the F-35, F-16, C-130 and more, have been operational in Israel for many years. Now, we step into the high-energy laser era and look forward to fielding operational, reliable and highly effective systems with teammates such as Rafael.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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