Israeli High-Energy Air Defense Laser Weapon Iron Beam Reportedly Deployed in Combat
19:03 GMT 24.11.2023 (Updated: 05:51 GMT 25.11.2023)
With the latest escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict showing no signs of abating, Tel Aviv has reportedly deployed an air defense laser weapon system to counter missile threats.
Israeli forces have successfully used a laser weapon system called the Iron Beam to intercept a rocket that was fired at Israel amid the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip sector, if the media reports that emerged this week are to be believed.
Made by Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Iron Beam is a high-power laser
designed to intercept airborne targets at close range, with some outlets pointing out that the weapon was actually expected to be rolled out in 2025.
Dr. Simon Tsipis, expert on national security, political science, and international relations, told Sputnik that the first use of the Iron Beam was against the rockets fired by Hezbollah from Lebanon.
“This is a run-of-the-mill laser based on the fundamental concept of high energy concentration. However, its capability is limited to destroying targets within a relatively short range, typically a few dozen kilometers and no further,” Tsipis said, adding that another advantage the weapon possesses is its ability to act quickly and to intercept “very small targets.”
According to him, the Iron Beam is currently limited by its range. The laser is mainly used against targets that the Iron Dome air defense missile system cannot intercept, such as very small objects.
Tsipis suggested that the Iron Beam is unlikely to be used against cruise or ballistic missiles. Israel already possesses other air defense systems capable of handling such threats, and the Iron Beam is intended to supplement these systems.
"In essence, Israel's plans involve establishing a sort of anti-missile dome across the country. This system would be able to respond to any challenge and any type of missile," said Tsipis.
Meanwhile, military analyst Alexander Mikhailov, argued that Iron Beam can hardly be called a unique weapon, seeing how all “advanced military-industrial states” currently work on combat laser weaponry development.
1 October 2023, 12:00 GMT
He also remarked that, while the relatively short range and the ability to take down targets only during good weather currently limits the laser’s usefulness, it does not mean that such weapons are completely useless, seeing how drones and other air-to-ground munitions nowadays are often way cheaper than guided air-to-ground missiles.
“Fighting drone swarms with guided air-to-ground missiles becomes too complicated and too expensive for any budget. So the development of combat lasers for short-range air defense will continue,” Mikhailov noted.
That said, the analyst questioned the effectiveness of laser air defense systems, noting that it takes several seconds for the laser beam to focus on its target and destroy it, so it is unclear whether such a weapon could handle a massed rocket strike akin to those carried out by Hamas recently.
“As an add-on to the Israeli Iron Dome, it is effective,” Mikhailov maintained, referring to the Iron Beam. “But, again, only when the weather is clear and, say, one or two missiles are incoming, and not a swarm of drones or rockets from which the Iron Beam simply cannot protect,” he added.