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Meet Iron Beam: Israel’s new laser-based air defense system  

The system – a “game changer” – successfully completed a series of ground-breaking tests with a high-power laser interception against guided and unguided projectiles

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

Israel’s Defense Ministry unveiled a new air defense system that will complement the famous Iron Dome batteries and use laser technology to intercept drones, mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles in multiple scenarios. 

Iron Beam, considered ground-breaking by its developers, completed a first series of challenging tests last month, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett posted a video demonstrating Iron Beam's performance on Twitter, referring to it as a “game-changer” and a "huge achievement” of the country's defense industries. 

“We have successfully completed a series of tests on our new ‘Iron Beam’ laser air defense system. This may sound like science-fiction, but it’s real,” Bennett wrote. 

“This is the world’s first energy-based weapons system, that has proven to actually work. The Iron Beam’s interceptions are silent, they’re invisible and they only cost around $3.50. We are turning the tables on terror,” he added.

Bennett announced in February that Israel would deploy the system within the year. The Times of Israel reported that Iron Beam was initially planned to be deployed by 2024, but the military has pushed for an earlier deployment. 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz noted that Israel seeks to achieve operational status for the system as soon as possible. The sophisticated technology will enable an “efficient, inexpensive, and innovative means of defense.” 

“This system will save lives and will also allow operational flexibility,” the minister added. In a statement, he defined the new system as a “breakthrough on a global scale.”

Israel is one of the first countries in the world to successfully develop high-power laser technology at an operational standard with operational interception capabilities, according to the country’s Defense Ministry. 

Iron Beam is being developed by the Rafael weapons manufacturer in cooperation with Elbit Systems. It is not meant to replace the Iron Dome or Israel’s other air defense systems, but rather to complement them and provide a multi-tiered air defense array. The laser system will intercept smaller projectiles and leave larger ones for the more robust missile-based batteries. Its downside is that it does not function well in every weather condition and at times of low visibility. 

The Times of Israel mentioned that hundreds of millions of shekels have been allocated to the final development stages and trial phase, in which the system will be placed on the border with the Gaza Strip.

“The use of a laser is a ‘game changer’ and the technology is simple to operate and proves to be economically viable,” said the head of the ministry’s research and development team, Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaniv Rotem.

According to the Defense Ministry, as long as there is a constant source of energy for the laser, there is no risk of the system ever running out of ammunition.

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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