Israel's Iron Beam laser anti-aircraft system could enter service in less than 3 years

Last April, teams from the industrialist Rafael and the Israeli army conducted a first "life-size" test of the Iron Beam anti-aircraft system, a defense device based on a high-energy laser with a power of more than 100 Kw . During these trials, Iron Beam demonstrated its ability to intercept and destroy not only light drones, but also artillery rockets and mortar shells with precision, efficiency and velocity. These successes have apparently finished convincing the Israeli armed forces, which now plan to equip themselves with this system in the surprisingly near future, between two and three years, so as to complement the capabilities of the high-performance, but also very expensive Iron Dome system that protects the country's strategic cities and installations against potential massive saturation attacks carried out by the Palestinian Hezbollah and their Iranian supporters.

According to Rafael, all the technological issues have already been answered, and now only purely industrial, and therefore budgetary, questions arise in order to provide Israeli defense with this system. It must be said that for Jerusalem, the stakes are high. Indeed, while Iron Dome has shown its effectiveness beyond any doubt during the attacks carried out by Hezbollah in 2021, by containing the threat against peaks at more than 2500 rocket attacks per day in October, the Israeli anti-aircraft and anti-missile system has also shown its greatest weaknesses in this type of engagement, namely the costs associated with each interception with a missile whose price exceeds $50.000, and the restocking delays of these missiles to deal with massive attacks spread over time. It is precisely in these two areas that the Iron Beam intends to provide a critical response to Israeli defense.

IFPC Iron Dome Sky Hunter Defense Analysis | Laser Weapons and Directed Energy | Air defense
Despite its undeniable effectiveness, the Iron Dom system showed in 2021 that it had the defects of its qualities, with an interception price much higher than the price of destroyed targets, and significant difficulties in restocking the systems after an intense use.

Indeed, the cost of using the Iron Beam is much lower than that of the Iron Dome missiles. According to Rafael, one shot of his new system would cost $3,5, which is the price of the energy needed for the system to produce the high-energy laser. Such a cost of use and ownership is obviously to be taken with great caution, because transmitted by the manufacturer himself, on criteria that only him knows. Thus, it is not known what levels of maintenance are required to keep the system running, or simply what the rate of wear of the equipment is over time when it is to be used. While these costs for a missile-based system like Iron Dome are based above all on the price of the ammunition itself with relatively reduced possession and use constraints proportionally as long as the missiles are available, there is no guarantee that a high-energy laser system can also be modeled on such a model, quite the contrary.

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