When it comes to national air security, Israel doesn't mess around; it has not one but four separate levels of "active defenses" alone. And with the introduction of the new Iron Beam system, Israel now has five different ways to shoot down incoming projectiles.
Israel's short-range Iron Dome is currently complemented by batteries of medium-to-long-range David's Sling (for use against rockets and cruise missiles) and longer range Arrow II ballistic missile interceptors. And the country will soon have the exo-atmospheric Arrow III system online as well. But while the Arrow III will handle nuke-toting ICBMs before they become a threat, Israel is far more likely to incur attacks from very short range rocket and RPG attacks. This is especially true along the country's disputed border settlement region and for forward-operating military installations. And that's where the Iron Beam comes in.
Iron Beam, developed by the state-owned Rafael Defense Systems, is very similar in design to America's HEL-MD system—not surprising how closely the two country's cooperate on military development—and is built to handle incoming threats flying at too low an altitude for the Iron Dome (which already sports an 80 percent kill rate) to handle. And like HEL-MD, the Iron Beam will rely on a solid state laser to superheat incoming rockets, artillery, mortars, and UAVs at a distance of up to 4.5 miles.
Rafael plans to formally unveil the new system next month at the Singapore Airshow:
"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,"Joseph Horowitz, Director of Marketing and Business Development at RAFAEL's Air Superiority Systems Division told Defense-Update. "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."