The State of Israel is expected to launch a new missile defense system, Iron Beam, that will use lasers to heat up and destroy small rockets and mortars that are airborne too briefly to be shot down by the existing Iron Dome missile system, according to reports Sunday. The Iron Beam system is being developed by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and will be unveiled in February at the Singapore Air Show.
The Iron Dome system was largely successful in Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012, shooting down some 80% of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets. In the past several days, Iron Dome has been put to use in destroying rockets fired from Gaza in the wake of the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Iron Beam will provide more comprehensive protection as the “fifth layer” of Israel’s missile defense.
In addition to its anticipated success in destroying smaller projectiles, Iron Beam is expected to be cheaper to operate than Iron Dome. An earlier laser system, the Nautilus, was jointly developed by the U.S. and Israel between 1996 and 2005 but was canceled, according to the Times of Israel, because of poor performance in dealing with multiple rockets at once and because it did not deal well with cloudy conditions.