Israel to protect state with Iron beam star wars laser missile shield

Israel says it is close to developing ‘Star Wars’ laser missile shield named Iron Beam that will cover entire region

Laser shield can intercept drones, rockets, missiles and mortars
High Energy Laser rapidly heats an object until it explodes, makers claim
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said its lasers destroyed 90% of targets
System is designed to intercept objects current Iron Dome system cannot
Current defense system has destroyed hundreds of Hamas rockets

PUBLISHED: 12:57, 14 February 2014 | UPDATED: 13:22, 14 February 2014

An Israeli arms company has revealed details of a laser defense system with ‘Star Wars’ style technology which can shoot missiles from the sky with a pulse of energy.

State-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said the futuristic military hardware called Iron Beam was almost ready for deployment.

It works by firing a focused laser at targets which are heated so rapidly they disintegrate in an instant.

The arms maker publicised specifications of its High Energy Laser (HEL) at this week’s Singapore Airshow, which is Asia’s largest aerospace and defense exhibition.

‘It’s exactly like what you see in Star Wars,’ said company spokesman Amit Zimmer. ‘You see the lasers go up so quickly like a flash and the target is finished.’

The radical system is the culmination of five years to work involving solid-state lasers by 15 engineers, the company said.

Iron Beam is designed to intercept close-range drones, rockets and mortars which might not remain in the air long enough for Israel’s current Iron Dome missile defense system to intercept.

Iron Dome batteries have shot down hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip at Israeli cities.


Countries are vying to weaponise laser technology.

The U.S. Navy announced last year that it will attach a prototype of its Laser Weapons System (LaWS) to USS Ponce and send the amphibious transport docking ship to the Middle East in 2014.

This will be the first time a laser weapon is used in active service. The blast of infrared energy it delivers can disable a small boat or even take down a drone from above as an impressive Navy video shows.

Navy researchers told reporters that the laser gun, or a ‘directed energy pulse weapon’ as the military call it, destroyed its targets 100 percent of the time in testing.

‘It operates much like a blowtorch… with an unlimited magazine,’ a Navy official said.

The solid-state laser prototype doesn’t use up expensive ammunition so is cheap to operate.

‘Its weapon round costs about $1 to shoot,’ said Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, a Navy researcher.

However, LaWS costs more to build in the first place – at around $32 million per unit.

With no peace deal in sight and also threatened by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel wants to beef up that system and develop further protection.

Avnish Patel, an expert in military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, said Iron Beam is potentially an effective addition to Israel’s defenses rather than a drastic change.

‘Essentially, its military and tactical utility will be particularly useful in complementing the already proven Iron Dome system in tackling very short range threats such as rockets and mortar fire and in close quarter engagements,’ he said.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said test data show Iron Beam lasers are blasting away more than 90 percent of their targets.

The new system can also be modified so that multiple lasers can be used to hit a target, according to the company. But officials remain tight lipped as to when and how the Iron Beam will be deployed.

Zimmer, the company spokesman, said: ‘It’s very accurate and will help avoid collateral damage.’

He added: ‘When you use lasers, you have an unlimited magazine.’

Besides Iron Beam and Iron Dome, Israel is also developing the next phase of its Arrow system which can intercept missiles in space and the upcoming David’s Sling, which shoots down short and mid-range ballistic missiles.

But some feel Israel, which gets significant funding from key ally the U.S. for missile defense capabilities, is going overboard.

Fanar Haddad, a research fellow from the Middle East Institute in Singapore, said Israeli military superiority in the region was so firmly established that Iron Beam was unlikely to change anything in the short or medium term.

‘The development of another layer says more about Israeli paranoia,’ he said. ‘The possibility of a conventional attack against Israel is next to nil and there is hardly a need for five layers of missile defense systems.’

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems would not comment on how much Iron Beam would cost or how much has been invested in it so far.

‘It’s very hard to say. We’re still testing and it can be modified in many different ways,’ Zimmer said.

Other nations and private companies may be keen on using the laser based technology to protect against attacks.

Israel has become one of the world’s leading weapons exporters. Israeli arms companies often point out that they bring with them years of firsthand experience from conflicts with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, jihadi militants in Egypt’s Sinai desert and Hezbollah guerrillas.

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