Israel Accelerates Deployment of Laser Air Defense System
Amid escalating hostilities, Israel is fast-tracking the implementation of the Iron Beam laser-based missile defense system. This system offers a more cost-effective and efficient means of intercepting artillery shells, mortar rounds, and drones at distances of several kilometers, according to Defense Industry reports.
As part of operational trials, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are deploying a 100 kW laser developed by Rafael for combat duty. Experts note that this laser-based air defense system is a significantly more budget-friendly alternative to the Iron Dome, with each shot costing just $1,000, compared to the estimated $40,000 to $50,000 cost of a Tamir missile for the Iron Dome. During Hamas attacks, Israel faced a shortage of Iron Dome interceptors, whereas laser technology alleviates this issue, requiring only a robust power source.
In March 2022, the IDF successfully conducted a series of trials for the Iron Beam system, effectively neutralizing drones, mortar rounds, and missiles. Initially slated for introduction into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) arsenal by 2025, the process was expedited due to the Hamas attacks.
Presently, the IDF and Rafael possess only prototypes of laser stations, insufficient for comprehensive coverage of Israeli territory. Consequently, the laser air defense system will be deployed primarily on the most vulnerable fronts. However, this system will not serve as a full replacement for the Iron Dome but rather as a complementary and effective addition.
Laser air defense systems are also making their way into the arsenals of other countries. In late September, it was announced that the United States Army received its first four prototypes of the cutting-edge 50 kW DE M-SHORAD (Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense) laser systems with a limited operational range. These systems are mounted on Stryker armored vehicles and were allocated to the 4th Battalion, 60th Air Defense Artillery Regiment at Fort Sill. The soldiers underwent thorough training on the M-SHORAD training platform, specifically designed to replicate the size, weight, and power of the DE M-SHORAD prototype.
It's worth noting that Lockheed Martin achieved a groundbreaking milestone by developing a 500 kW laser weapon prototype capable of effectively engaging heavily armored targets. This laser is generated using optical fiber coils with neodymium doping, integrated into the system, which includes Target Illumination and Laser Source (TILL) for target acquisition and tracking, as well as Beacon Illumination and Laser Source (BILL) for measuring atmospheric distortions that are later compensated for through adaptive optics. All these components are linked to a combat management system that monitors the environment, tracks, and evaluates potential targets.