This is the Iron Beam, Israel’s new anti-aircraft weapon that fulminates missiles and drones with a laser in 4 seconds

The Iron Dome has proved to be one of Israel’s greatest assets to protect itself from the bombardment by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists coming from the other side of the Gaza Strip. This shield employs a system similar to the Army’s Patriot, but on a much larger scale and with requirements adapted to the continuous bombardments exchanged by the different factions fighting in the region.

Rafael, the company behind the development of the Iron Dome, is also behind the other two shields protecting the Israeli population. An on-board maritime one that it has recently tested and now with one focused on taking down all kinds of threats without firing a single round of ammunition.

The Iron Beam uses concentrated energy in a laser beam to finish off drones, missiles and mortars. A weapon that looks like something out of any science fiction book but is so real that the Israel Defense Forces have released a video showing it.

“The use of a laser is a turning point and the technology is simple to use and proves to be economically viable,” Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of the Defense Ministry’s research and development team, told Times of Israel. These tests conducted recently at an undisclosed location are the first capable of intercepting unguided projectiles and anti-tank guided missiles, ammunition that is doing so much damage to Russian battle tanks in Ukraine.

First unveiled in 2014, the Iron Beam is currently immersed in a deep testing campaign aimed at its official entry into service later this year, ahead of initial plans that pointed more to 2024 as the time of debut.

Like its ground-based interceptor missile counterpart, the Iron Beam’s goal is to eliminate threats in the short range. According to some reports, it has a maximum range of 7 kilometers and will constitute Israel’s fifth layer of protection along with the Arrow 2, Arrow 3, Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems.

The Iron Beam uses a fiber optic system to generate the laser pulses and achieves enough energy to destroy an airborne threat by striking it for 4 to 5 seconds. It can be used alone or as part of a complete anti-aircraft shield, obtaining information from other radars.

The main advantage of using a laser beam instead of energy is that the ammunition is virtually unlimited and at a significantly lower cost than if interceptor missiles were used. According to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, each shot costs only $3.5 (about 3 euros). Much less than the $100,000 per intercept of the Iron Dome.

The development of the system has been one of the big bets of the Israeli Defense Ministry, which expects to have more weapons of this type in the coming years. A complete Iron Beam battery consists of an air defense radar, a command and control unit and a pair of laser generator systems with a power output of between 100 and 150 kW.

This technology has aroused some interest in the international community. As a key Israeli ally, U.S.-based Lockheed Martin announced last year that they were going to “explore technological opportunities and implementations” related to the Iron Beam.

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