RAFAEL Develops a New High Energy Laser Weapon

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RAFAEL's Iron Beam operational scenario. Photo: RAFAEL
[nonmember]RAFAEL's Iron Beam operational scenario. Photo: RAFAEL[/nonmember]Israel plans to implement a fifth ‘active defense’ layer in its national multi-layered air and missile defense system, aimed to provide an affordable countermeasure against threats at ‘very short range. The new capability will be able to protect border communities and military installations, offering point defense against various aerial threats.

These elements could consist of the new ‘Iron Beam’ system, a mobile High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) developed by RAFAEL. ‘Iron Beam’ is designed to destroy targets by irradiation with a directed High Energy (HE) laser beam. The system will have a wide range of applications – from engagement of airborne targets, acting as a Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortars (C-RAM) to Counter-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (C-UAV)s or surface-based targets. It is designed for operation as part of air-defense system or as a stand-alone system, at day or night-time.” RAFAELs communiqué said.

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Elements of the High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) will be unveiled in February at the Singapore Airshow, with more details and system-representative elements to be displayed at the Eurosatory exhibition in June this year.

“At the Singapore Airshow we are introducing our Iron Dome and MIC4AD air-defense integration system and a new system called ‘Iron Beam’, comprising a new C-RAM defense capability employing directed energy weapon.” Joseph Horowitz, Director of Marketing and Business Development at RAFAEL’s Air Superiority Systems Division told Defense-Update. “The directed energy component known as ‘Iron Beam’ employs a solid–state laser interceptor designed to engage targets at very short range, below the levels where we currently employ the Iron Dome.” Horowitz explained, adding “As a weapon system, Iron Beam is designed to have minimal collateral damage, minimal environmental impact and no risk to friendly air traffic around the attacked target.”

[wlm_ismember]‘Iron Beam’ is designed as a modular, mobile system, effective against short range tactical threats, including salvos. “It will be containerizsed, and have the footprint of a self propelled cannon.” Horowitz explained. Unlike the experimental US-Israeli ‘NAUTILUS’ (THEL) system, a high-energy lasers tested in the 1990s, an electrical generator will power the ‘Iron Beam’ solid-state laser offering ‘multi-shot, multi-target engagement’ without the hazardous environmental effects associated with earlier chemical lasers. The HELWS will also be able to enable defeat large salvo attacks by destroying all targets. (Other interceptors selectively engage those targets that pose the highest threat).

RAFAEL's Iron Beam operational scenario. Photo: RAFAELAddressing some of the Iron Dome’s critics claiming the system’s soft spot is in its expensive ‘battle-economy’, the ‘Iron Beam’ would offer a ‘deep magazine and minimal logistic trail. In fact, an ‘Iron Beam’ fire unit will not require any replenishment during combat – enabling the unit continuous operation in the field, dependent solely on the supply of electricity from the platform. “With ‘Iron Beam’ engaging in the short range battle, Iron Dome and David’s Sling will be able to focus on the higher and longer threats, their intercepts are managed by MIC4AD, to maximize defense efficiency” Horowitz said.

“The ‘cost per shot’ of the ‘Iron Beam’ is aimed to be below the costs of cannons, thus providing a highly affordable complement to other active defense systems such as those maintained by Israel’s Iron-Dome – David’s Sling – Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems. More information will be published prior to the Singapore Airshow. Please subscribe to our news alerts (at the bottom of the page) to receive an email alert as the post is updated.[/wlm_ismember]

The video above shows excerpts from the Boeing/US Army HEL-MD test in December, where the High Energy Weapon engaged unmanned vehicles and mortar bombs, destroyed in flight. (DOD Video)

The Israeli project is not the first to enter testing. Development of similar programs was accelerated in recent years in the USA and in Europe, addressing urgent needs for better protection of NATO forward bases in Afghanistan (ISAF). [wlm_ismember]The most advanced is the US Army HEL-MD weaponized, mobile laser system developed by Boeing, which was recently put to the test at White Sands NM. Other HEL programs under various stages of research and prototyping are also underway in Germany – at MBDA and Rheinmetall Defence. All these are solid-state lasers designed primarily for C-RAM and C-UAV, employing lasers of several tens of kilowatts in power. The US program has the goal to reach 100kW power but has yet to reach half that level.[/wlm_ismember]