Rafael, Lockheed Martin to develop laser weapon system for Israel, US

IRON BEAM is a 100kW-class HELWS, expected to be the first-ever operational system for ground-based air defense against threats including rockets, mortars and UAVs.

 The IRON BEAM in action. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
The IRON BEAM in action.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

A newly signed teaming agreement between US-based Lockheed Martin and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems will result in the joint development, testing and manufacturing of a high-energy laser weapon system (HELWS) in the US and Israel.

The joint development will be based on preexisting assets developed independently by Rafael and the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) within the framework of the Iron Beam project, and it will be geared toward developing a variant of the system to be used in US markets and elsewhere.

“This strategic teaming agreement serves as a force multiplier for Rafael and the Israeli market,” Rafael CEO and president Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yoav Har-Even said in a press release. “We are working to ensure our customers receive the most advanced, effective and best-in-class systems. This agreement will expand and diversify the capabilities we can offer to a variety of customers.”

Iron Beam is a 100kW-class HELWS and is expected to be the first-ever operational system for ground-based air defense against threats, including rockets, mortars and UAVs. The system is to be integrated into Israel’s multilayered air-defense array to counter emerging threats while also defending critical infrastructure, strategic sites, maneuvering forces and population centers.

Rafael executive vice president Ran Gozali, head of the company’s Land and Naval Systems Directorate, said: “The system is designed to provide defense against emerging threats in today’s complex battlefield, bolstering the strength of the Israeli home front, and is a catalyst for forging bilateral collaborations.”

The Iron Beam initiative has been under joint development in Israel by DDR&D and Rafael for several years. Last year, the system underwent several tests that proved its operational capability.

 Frank St. John, Chief Operating Officer, Lockheed Martin with Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Yoav Har-Even, Rafael CEO and President. (credit: SIVAN FARAG) Frank St. John, Chief Operating Officer, Lockheed Martin with Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Yoav Har-Even, Rafael CEO and President. (credit: SIVAN FARAG)

The laser system under development for several years

“Over the last three decades, alongside the DDR&D and the Israeli Defense Ministry, Rafael has invested in laser research and development, resulting in Iron Beam, and we expect [the HELWS] to become the first operational laser defense system of its kind,” Har-Even said. “This serves as a clear example of Israeli-made capabilities leading to strategic cooperation that will greatly benefit both sides.”

Lockheed Martin said it intends to leverage its decades of defense technology expertise to efficiently and effectively co-develop the Iron Beam-based HELWS.

“Lockheed Martin’s mission is to deliver the best security solutions that help our customers stay ahead of their adversaries,” Lockheed Martin COO Frank St. John said. “Working with Rafael, our joint team will help bring this new, life-saving capability to our customers. This unique capability will enhance Israel’s vital air- and missile-defense system with state-of-the-art laser technology, and we are honored by the opportunity to expand Lockheed Martin’s role as a security teammate for the State of Israel.”

“This unique capability will enhance Israel’s vital air and missile defense system with state-of-the-art laser technology, and we are honored by the opportunity to expand Lockheed Martin’s role as a security teammate for the State of Israel.”

Frank St. John

Lockheed Martin Israel CEO Joshua Shani said the company’s history with Israel was long-standing, and the development of the HELWS project is yet another step in that journey.

“Lockheed Martin is entering a new area of operations in Israel,” he said. “As a leader of technology, our aerial platforms, such as the F-35, F-16, C-130 and more, have been operational in Israel for many years. Now, we step into the high-energy laser era and look forward to fielding operational, reliable and highly effective systems with teammates such as Rafael.”