The new system, Iron Beam, is a high-energy, laser-based defensive system designed to knock mortar rounds, artillery shells and other projectiles out of the sky, according to a report Saturday on the industry website Israel Defense.
Iron Beam is designed to complement the Iron Dome missile defense system by focusing on smaller projectiles and “pinpoint defense,” the report noted.
The system would be most relevant to the Negev town of Sderot, which is situated less than four kilometers from Gaza and, therefore, largely unprotected by Iron Dome.
It would also reduce the cost of intercepting rockets from Gaza. While each Iron Dome interceptor is priced at close to $100,000, the cost of firing a laser beam is significantly lower.
The laser system, if made operational, would represent the “lowest level” of a multitiered system of missile defense, which, aside from Iron Beam and Iron Dome, includes David’s Sling for medium-range rockets and the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems to defend against long-range missiles.
The Iron Beam is to be presented for the first time at the 2014 Singapore Air Show, to be held on February 11-16, according to the Rafael website, which describes the system as a “High Energy Laser (HEL) based system against rockets, mortar and airborne target attacks.”
The US and Israel had, from 1996 to 2005, worked jointly on the development of a laser-based anti-rocket system called Nautilus.
The program cost the two countries $300 million, according to a New York Times report, but was shelved because of its perceived poor performance in cloudy weather and in combating salvos of fire.