Israel seeks US partnership in Iron Beam laser defense system

Israel hopes American partnership will foster further defense cooperation among regional allies against Iran.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

President Joe Biden will be shown Israel’s Iron Beam laser defense system in the hope that the U.S. will become a partner in its development, Israel’s Walla News reported on Thursday.

The report said that U.S. cooperation would help foster defense cooperation among Israel’s Mideast allies against threats posed by Iran’s missiles and drones.

Biden is scheduled to visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia on July 13-16.

Israel is already in talks with the U.S. Defense Department to explore American partnership. According to Hebrew media reports, Biden will visit the Palmachim Air Base, where the IDF will give him a presentation on the Iron Beam’s capabilities.

The laser system successfully intercepted missiles, drones, mortars, and anti-tank rockets in tests in April. But it is still years away from becoming operational.

A laser defense system would be significantly less expensive to maintain than the current Iron Dome. While the Qassam rockets used by Hamas are said to cost $300-$800 apiece, one Iron Dome interceptor missile costs around $50,000.

During the Gaza war of May 2021, Palestinians fired 4,369 rockets at Israel in a 12-day period. According to the IDF, about two-thirds landed in open areas or malfunctioned but Israel was forced to fire approximately 1,500 interceptors.

The IDF wants to use Irom Beam to supplement, not replace, the Iron Dome system.

After visiting the Haifa facility of lead contractor Rafael Advanced Systems,earlier in June, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the Iron Beam would “bankrupt” Israel’s enemies.

“This is a game changer because not only can we strike the enemy militarily, but also financially bankrupt them,” Bennett said.

“Until today it would cost us a lot of money to intercept every rocket. Today they can invest tens of thousands of dollars in a rocket and we can invest two dollars to cover the cost of the electricity in shooting down the rocket.”

Lasers are capable of unlimited firings, cost less per intercept, require less manpower and operational resources, and leave no debris. However, because lasers can only strike targets in their line of sight, Israel is also developing the High-Power Laser Weapon System that could be mounted on small airplanes.

Iron Beam would complement Israel’s multi-tiered defense system.

The first tier of Israel’s missile defense, the better-known Iron Dome, protects Israel from short-range threats such as rockets fired by Gaza terror groups.

The second tier, David’s Sling, is designed to intercept medium range threats, such as the medium and long-range rockets in Hezbollah’s arsenal, enemy planes and cruise missiles.

The third tier, Arrow, was developed to intercept ballistic missiles flying in space.