Lockheed Martin to Join Development of Israeli Laser-based Anti-missile System

Rafael’s system is called Iron Beam, and the agreement with Lockheed Martin will focus on a version for the American market and later for additional countries

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Rockets entering Israel from Gaza during Operation Breaking Dawn in August.
Rockets entering Israel from Gaza during Operation Breaking Dawn in August.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin, which specializes in manufacturing planes and armaments, has joined Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ project to build a laser-based system against missiles and rockets, the two companies announced on Monday. The announcement comes after a deal was signed between the two companies, the Israeli defense establishment and the U.S. government.

In 2019, after years of tests and experiments, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced a breakthrough in producing an interception system based on electrolasers. This system is intended to complement existing missile defense systems, which are based on kinetic impact such as the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow.

The laser’s main advantage is the cost. Currently, a wide cost gap exists today between an Israeli intercepting missile, which costs upwards of tens of thousands of dollars and the rockets that are launched at Israel, which cost only several hundred dollars, allowing terror groups to amass tens of thousands of them.

Iron Dome missile interception system.

The Defense Ministry has tasked two local defense industries with the development of the system: Rafael is building a laser to be launched from the ground, while Elbit Systems is manufacturing a laser system that would be deployed on an aircraft in the future. Lockheed Martin has joined Rafael’s project, and an operational model is expected to be deployed – as an experiment – on the Gaza border in two to three years. Rafael’s system is called Iron Beam, and the agreement with Lockheed Martin will focus on a version for the American market and later for additional countries.

An experiment in laser interception by the Defense Ministry and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in April.Credit: Spokesperson and Information Department / Ministry of Defense

To date, Israel has invested tens of millions of dollars in developing the laser-based system, and the Defense Ministry is optimistic as to its chances of success. The deal with Lockheed Martin attest to the high optimism shared amongst the U.S. administration as well as the company, and believe bigger profits can be made from such systems as the world becomes increasingly interested in acquiring and developing defense systems. Israel hopes the advent of the laser technology will significantly improve the defensive capabilities against missiles and rockets.

Rafael’s CEO, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yoav Har-Even, said on Monday that “the strategic cooperation agreement with Lockheed Martin is a force multiplier for Rafael and the Israeli economy. We expect Iron Beam to become the first operational system of its kind in the world.”

Lockheed Martin’s Joshua Shani, Chief Executive Officer of Israel Operations, said that the company is “entering a new era in its activity in Israel. We are entering the age of the powerful laser and expect a deployment of a reliable and efficient operational system, together with our partners in Rafael.”

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