Israel reveals laser-based missile shield

SINGAPORE — An Israeli state-owned arms company developing a laser-based missile shield that evokes “Star Wars” style technology says its deployment over the country is closer to becoming a reality.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said development of the system was advanced enough for the company to be comfortable with publicizing it at this week’s Singapore Airshow, which is Asia’s largest aerospace and defense exhibition.

The laser technology behind the missile shield called Iron Beam is not that far removed from fiction.

“It’s exactly like what you see in Star Wars,” said company spokesman Amit Zimmer. “You see the lasers go up so quickly like a flash and the target is finished.”

Iron Beam is designed to intercept close-range drones, rockets and mortars which might not remain in the air long enough for Israel’s current Iron Dome missile defense system to intercept.

Iron Dome batteries have shot down hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip at Israeli cities. With no peace deal in sight and also threatened by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel wants to beef up that system and develop further protection.

Avnish Patel, an expert in military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, said Iron Beam is potentially an effective addition to Israel’s defenses rather than a drastic change.

“Essentially, its military and tactical utility will be particularly useful in complementing the already proven Iron Dome system in tackling very short range threats such as rockets and mortar fire and in close quarter engagements,” he said.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said test data show Iron Beam lasers are blasting away more than 90 percent of their targets. The new system can also be modified so that multiple lasers can be used to hit a target, according to the company. But officials remain tight lipped as to when and how the Iron Beam will be deployed.

Zimmer, the company spokesman, said it took 15 engineers about five years to work on the technology involving solid-state lasers. It works by shooting laser beams at targets which are heated so rapidly they disintegrate in an instant.

“It’s very accurate and will help avoid collateral damage,” Zimmer said at the company’s booth at the airshow exhibition hall. “When you use lasers, you have an unlimited magazine.”

Besides Iron Beam and Iron Dome, Israel is also developing the next phase of its Arrow system which can intercept missiles in space and the upcoming David’s Sling, which shoots down short and mid-range ballistic missiles.

But some feel Israel, which gets significant funding from key ally the U.S. for missile defense capabilities, is going overboard.

Fanar Haddad, a research fellow from the Middle East Institute in Singapore, said Israeli military superiority in the region was so firmly established that Iron Beam was unlikely to change anything in the short or medium term.

“The development of another layer says more about Israeli paranoia,” he said. “The possibility of a conventional attack against Israel is next to nil and there is hardly a need for five layers of missile defense systems.”

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems would not comment on how much Iron Beam would cost or how much has been invested in it so far.

“It’s very hard to say. We’re still testing and it can be modified in many different ways,” Zimmer said.

Other nations and private companies may be keen on using the laser based technology to protect against attacks.

Israel has become one of the world’s leading weapons exporters. Israeli arms companies often point out that they bring with them years of firsthand experience from conflicts with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, jihadi militants in Egypt’s Sinai desert and Hezbollah guerrillas.

More in Herald Business Journal

Best foot forward: Ferndale company to make custom shoes easy

Long specializing in insoles, Superfeet is putting 3-D machines in stores to make customized shoes.

Does a hypersonic US reconnaissance plane already exist?

A Skunk Works executive speaks of the top secret aircraft as if it is already in operation.

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Port of Everett CEO Les Reardanz has been called up and will be spending much of the year away from his office. He is going to Afghanistan. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Port of Everett CEO reporting for duty — in Afghanistan

Les Reardanz has been called to active duty with the Navy for an eight-month deployment.

Boeing opens new $17 million training center in Auburn

Workers and dignitaries marked the grand opening of the facility Monday.

Trump’s company fights efforts to shed the president’s name

“Our homes are worth more without the Trump name.”

Airbus floats shutdown of A380 superjumbo

The aircraft is so big that some airports had to expand runways to accommodate the 550-seat plane.

Amanda Strong (left) tries on an Angel of the Winds Arena hat as she and Courtney Brown hand out gift bags after the renaming ceremony Dec. 13 in Everett. The new name replaces the Xfinity name. (Andy Bronson / Her file)
Angel of the Winds to break ground on $60M casino expansion

“We think we’re on the cusp of becoming a major resort.”

Why 7-Eleven, inventor of the Slurpee, is going organic

As sales of gas, cigarettes and soda plummet, stores to offer “better-for-you” products.

Most Read