Singapore Airshow: Rafael launches Iron Beam

10 February 2014
An artist's impression of the Iron Beam's twin HEL units engaging an inbound projectile. Source: Rafael

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has unveiled its Iron Beam high-energy laser (HEL) system designed to defeat rockets, mortars, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at short ranges.

The land-based system, which was unveiled at the Singapore Airshow on 11 February, uses a pair of multi-kilowatt solid-state lasers to defeat incoming projectiles out to a range of about 2 km, a company official told IHS Jane's .

The mobile Iron Beam battery is comprised of an air defence radar, a command and control (C2) unit, and two HEL systems, Senderovits Ezra, deputy general manager of marketing and business development at Rafael, explained. The company-supplied imagery of the truck-mounted battery shows these various components housed in ISO shipping containers, although the actual configuration of the Iron Beam would depend on the customer's requirements.

"It is currently a truck-mounted system that is being used as a testbed, but it could just as easily be fitted to an armoured vehicle or some other configuration", Ezra said.

Once the Iron Beam's air defence radar (any radar will suffice, Ezra noted) acquires an incoming projectile, a thermal camera takes over the tracking until it is engaged simultaneously by two HELs. The system uses two lasers to provide the power needed to overcome atmospheric interference and physically destroy the target, which it does by focusing the beams on an area "about the size of a coin", Ezra said.

Ezra declined to give specific power levels for the HELs, except to say that they are currently working with "tens of kilowatts", but expects to move into the "hundreds of kilowatts" in the future. Rafael does not produce the lasers itself, but sources them from several unnamed suppliers.

As Ezra noted, Iron Beam is still a development programme and is not yet a finished product. "We are currently focused on understanding the technology, and we are at the beginning of a very long road," he said, adding: "We are waiting for more powerful lasers, but the investment from the [Israeli] government right now is limited."

While Ezra would not be specific, he did say that tests conducted to date have met with "a very good" success rate. He noted that about 100 firings have so far taken place.

According to Ezra, the HEL-based Iron Beam has a number of advantages over the more conventional missile-based systems. "Missile defence systems are hugely expensive," he said. "But with Iron Beam each shot costs almost nothing, and there are no real limits on the number of shots you can take." He also noted that, unlike missile-based systems, the Iron Beam cannot miss its target and cause collateral damage.

As the system is still in development, it has not yet been determined how it might fit into Israel's multi-tiered missile defence system that includes Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Arrow 3. Ezra noted that this is a decision for the government take at the appropriate time, but he added that it might be deployed as a stand-alone system to protect particular high-value assets.

With Iron Beam being a defensive system, Ezra said he expects it to be offered for export and he noted that Rafael has received interest from a number of potential customers. "There is definitely a market [for Iron Beam], and that market is growing. The number of threats is growing, and not everything can be dealt with by missiles."

(558 words)
By posting a comment you confirm that you have read and accept our Posting Rules and our Terms of Use of this site.


  • 9A1472 (9K121) Vikhr (AT-16 'Scallion')

    Type Laser-guided battlefield missile. Development The 9A1472 Vikhr (Whirlwind) laser-guided anti-tank missile was conceived during the 1980s by the Tula-based KBP Instrument Design Bureau. It was to be part of KBP's weapons suite for the new Kamov V-80 combat helicopter, which became the

  • 9M114/9K113 Shturm-V (AT-6 'Spiral')

    Type Command-guided air-to-surface missile. Development The supersonic 9M114 Shturm (storm) missile is a Russian third-generation anti-tank weapon, with the NATO code and designation AT-6 'Spiral'. The missile is also referred to as Kokon (cocoon) in some Russian sources. It was developed by the

  • 9M120 Ataka-V (AT-9 'Spiral-2')

    Type Laser-guided battlefield missile. Development The 9M120 Ataka (AT-9 'Spiral-2') is an improved, longer range version of the 1970's vintage 9M114 (AT-6 'Spiral') missile from the KBM Bureau. The two missiles are similar in their basic configurations but the Ataka (attack) has a more modern


    Type Anti-radiation missile. Development The Anti-Radar Matra (ARMAT) missile was a development from the anti-radar version of AS 37 Martel. The missiles had the same airframe but ARMAT incorporated an improved passive radar seeker and associated electronics. Whereas Martel was an Anglo-French

  • AS 15TT

    Type Command-guided air-to-surface missile. Development The AS 15TT (Air-Sol Tous Temps , air-to-surface all-weather) was the third-generation missile in an Aerospatiale (later Aerospatiale Matra, now MBDA) family of air-to-surface missiles that started back in the 1950s. The original programme


Industry Links

IHS Jane's is not responsible for the content within or linking from Industry Links pages.