The Israeli Defense Ministry has claimed that a laser air defence system it created successfully shot down drones, rockets, mortars, and anti-tank missiles in a series of tests conducted last month. The tests were said to have taken place in the Negev desert.
This ground-based laser system, dubbed the “Iron Beam,” is intended to improve the capabilities of a number of aerial defence systems, including the most expensive rocket interceptor, the Iron Dome.
The tests were carried out at “difficult” ranges and timings, according to the head of the ministry’s research and development team, Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaniv Rotem.
These tests took place more than a month after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared in February that the country was speeding up the deployment of the laser-based system to decrease the country’s current expensive costs of taking down aerial threats.
The test findings were revealed amid a new round of political unrest in Israel, which may result in yet another round of elections.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett remarked, “This may sound like science fiction, but it’s true.” “The interceptions of the Iron Beam are silent, invisible, and only cost roughly $3.50 each,” he noted.
“Israel has successfully tested the new “Iron Beam” laser interception system,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated on Twitter. At a cost of $3.50 per shot, this is the world’s first energy-based weapons system that employs a laser to take down oncoming UAVs, rockets, and mortars.”
Furthermore, the news comes only days before the 11-day Israel-Gaza war last year, during which Gaza’s leading militant group, Hamas, fired nearly 4,000 missiles at Israel. Tensions between Israel and Palestine in the West Bank have risen following a series of Palestinian attacks followed by Israeli shootings.
The proclamation was also meant to send a message to Israel’s foes, particularly its arch-enemy Iran. It is important to note that Israel views Iran as a major danger to its regional security.
In addition, Iran-backed militias in Yemen, the Houthi rebels, have recently been attacking the Saudi coalition using drones and missiles, a frequent tactic used by terrorist organisations associated with Iran.
Iron Beam to Compliment Iron Dome.
In the 1990s, lasers were utilised to intercept rockets, but by the year 2000, Israel had abandoned the idea. After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, work on a system to intercept short- and medium-range rockets and missiles was restarted, eventually leading to the construction of the ‘Iron Dome’ system a few years later.
Thanks to a breakthrough in laser technology, Israel was able to resume development of a laser-based system that would be substantially less expensive than the Iron Dome in 2019.
In June of last year, the laser-based defensive system was utilised for the first time to shoot down a drone. During the current testing, other threats such as unguided projectiles and anti-tank guided missiles were successfully tested for the first time.
This was apparently motivated by concerns that in the event of a future battle, the military would not have enough interceptor missiles for the Iron Dome and other air defence systems to shoot down incoming rockets, missiles, and drones. Furthermore, when compared to Iron Beam, the expense of operating an Iron Dome is extremely high.
It’s not supposed to be a replacement for Iron Dome or Israel’s other air defence systems; rather, it’s meant to supplement and augment them, shooting down smaller missiles while leaving larger ones to the more powerful missile-based batteries.
The Prime Minister had already outlined a drastic schedule for the Iron Beam system’s rapid deployment. “Within a year, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will put a laser-based interception system into action, first experimentally, then operationally, initially in the south, then elsewhere,” he stated in his speech. The’south’ was an allusion to the Gaza border.
Israel achieves a major victory.
Israel already has a multi-layered missile defence system in place, including the well-known ‘Iron Dome’ system for shooting down rockets and some cruise missiles, ‘David’s Sling’ for cruise missiles and some ballistic missiles, and ‘Arrow’ for ballistic missiles – potentially hypersonic ones with the ‘Arrow-4’ upgrade.
Despite the fact that Israel’s defence systems are fully compatible with the threat presented by Hamas in Gaza and Iran-backed militias, it insists on adding laser systems, citing cost as the reason.
All three layers of Israel’s air defence system use pricey interceptor missiles to knock down an inbound missile, rocket, or mortar round. According to one Israeli estimate, a full-fledged rocket strike would necessitate 30,000 Iron Dome interceptors valued billions of dollars.
A contemporary laser weapon, on the other hand, can shoot indefinitely as long as it has electrical power and never run out of ammunition. While laser beams won’t be able to totally replace interceptors (they have issues in bad weather, for example), they could be a useful addition to the defence.
Israel’s efforts to thwart what it regards as Iran’s intentions to encircle it with terrorists capable of destroying its infrastructure with relatively less expensive barrages had been signalled by Prime Minister Bennett. Israel appears to seek to build a fortification based on its intercepting capabilities, according to the statements.
Israel has been plagued by tensions with Iran, which is currently negotiating with the US to resurrect the nuclear deal. Despite the fact that the talks are still in the balance, Israel has threatened to attack its nuclear facilities.
As tensions between the two arch-foes remain a distinct possibility, Israel’s acquisition of the Iron Beam missile defence system could prove to be a boost to its security against any future missile or drone strike.