Iron Beam, Israel's New Mainstay After the Iron Dome Failure
Israel has used various Gaza wars as a weapons testing field. Various weapons that have proven successful in Gaza tend to sell well to a number of countries.
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The Hamas attack on October 7, 2023 exposed the weakness of Israel's Iron Dome, their air defense artillery or arhanud. The Israeli military has decided to accelerate the use of laser weapon technology.
Newsweek reported that on Monday (20/11/2023), the Israeli military had used Iron Beam made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The new system is said to have been used to drop rockets from Gaza.
The air defense system is designed to shoot down rockets, missiles, drones, or other airborne attack devices. Iron Beam's target can be within a radius of several hundred meters to several tens of kilometers. Rafael has not disclosed Iron Beam's farthest range.
Former Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett referred to the system as the "Laser Wall". Bennett named it in accordance with the type of air attack interceptor in the system.
Bennett and Rafael previously mentioned that Iron Beam will be operational by 2025. In February 2023, a prototype of the Iron Beam was showcased at a weapons and technology exhibition in the United Arab Emirates.
In a report on November 13, 2023, The Economist also reviewed Iron Beam. The British magazine quoted Uzi Rubin, a pioneer in Israeli air defense development. According to Rubin, the Iron Beam is a weapon with an unlimited magazine.
The Iron Dome relies on missiles as a defense against air attacks. Therefore, there are limitations on the number of missiles and the time needed to reload them in the Iron Dome. These limitations were one of the reasons why Israel's air defense system was overwhelmed on October 7, 2023.
Meanwhile Iron Beam uses lasers to repel air attacks. Theoretically, as long as the power is still there, the laser can continue to be used. "As long as there is electricity, the laser can be fired," said weapons expert at the Hudson Institute, Bryan Clark, to CNBC.
Indeed, electronics weaponry experts still have concerns regarding the Iron Beam. One of them is that lasers require a large amount of power and a pause for energy accumulation before being released towards the airborne target. The issue becomes more complicated if the Iron Beam is situated far from the source or a high-powered electrical supply network.
On October 20, 2023, US President Joe Biden mentioned a USD 106 billion aid package for Israel-Ukraine. From the fund, USD 1.2 billion will be allocated for the development of Iron Beam.
The copyright for Iron Beam is indeed jointly owned by the US and Israel. "The US will benefit from this development. The funds for the system will be a critical investment in the development of non-kinetic weapons," said defense analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Montgomery.
Assistant Director General of the Army (AD) at the US Department of Defense, Douglas Bush, stated that the US is indeed developing lasers for defense. However, the US system is not exactly the same as Iron Beam.
However, she agrees with Montgomery that the success of Iron Beam would be beneficial for the US. "If (Israel) is successful, the AD can accelerate," said the person in charge of procurement, logistics, and technology for the US AD.
The US Army stated that their system is part of the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC). They hope that the IFPC prototype can be approved by their contractor soon. The American defense product manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, is developing the IFPC laser.
The 2023 Gaza War not only revealed the role of Iron Beam, but Israel also showcased Iron Sting developed by Elbit System. In April 2021, Elbit and the Research and Development Directorate of the Israeli Ministry of Defense released a video of Iron Sting's trial.
In a report on October 22, 2023, Jerusalem Post revealed the use of the mortar in Gaza. The mortar uses a laser as a guide to the target. One of the IDF squads, Maglan, is said to have used the mortar in Gaza. Its longest range is 12 kilometers and can penetrate concrete walls.
Another formidable weapon in Israel's arsenal is the unmanned aerial vehicle Heron TP "Eitan", which was introduced during the 2007 war. The aircraft is manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel's largest aerospace and defense company as well as exporter.
The exploration time reaches up to 40 hours and can carry up to four rockets. Israel is developing a special rocket containing tungsten metal fragments. British NGO, Drone Wars UK, and Defence for Children International have stated that thousands of Palestinian children have been killed or injured by these aircraft and rockets.
Expert in war studies at Kings College London, Lawrence Freedman, claims that Israel has turned various Gaza wars into a testing ground for weapons. Various weapons that have proven to be successful in Gaza tend to be in high demand from several countries.
In its 2019 report, Amnesty International stated that the sale of Israeli weapons was conducted in secrecy. "Without sales documents, it is unknown when the weapons were sold by which company, how many there were, and so on," the organization said.
According to Amnesty International, Israeli weapon manufacturers export weapons to their final destination through several transaction stages, thus avoiding monitoring by the international financial system. Israel has yet to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which could limit the use of weapons in acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health is currently investigating a new phenomenon of burn injuries among Gaza war victims. The injury has never been seen before in previous wars in Gaza or other battlefields. (AFP/REUTERS)