JERUSALEM, Israel — Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel agreed to team up with Lockheed Martin of the U.S. to develop, test and manufacture a High Energy Laser Weapon System.
Rafael is behind Israel's Iron Beam laser weapon project, which is expected to deployed in the next two years alongside the Iron Dome defense system. The agreement with Lockheed Martin is aimed toward developing a variant of Iron Beam for the U.S., the companies said in a joint statement on Dec. 5.
"In the last year, a series of tests on the system was carried out that proved the operational capability of the system," they said. "Iron Beam is a 100kW-class HELWS, expected to be the first-ever operational system for ground-based air defense against threats such as rockets, mortars and UAV's, delivering engagement at the speed of light."
Israel showcased the laser air defense system to President Joe Biden when he visited in July. A joint declaration on July 14 said that the countries would work on laser defense technology. In September Lockheed delivered a 300kW-class laser system to the Pentagon's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. This was part of the U.S. Army's Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser Demonstrator.
Rafael and Lockheed see the teaming agreement as a "force multiplier" and an important aspect of the security cooperation between Israel and the U.S., it said.
CEO Yaov Har-Even said that Rafael and Israel's Ministry of Defense have been investing in laser research for thirty years. The partnership with a U.S. company "serves as a clear example of Israeli-made capabilities leading to strategic cooperation which will greatly benefit both sides," he said.
The U.S. has been trying to speed up acquisition of laser systems over the last several years.
In November 2019 Lockheed demonstrated a counter-UAS laser weapon system called ATHENA to the U.S. Air Force. The U.S. Navy also tested a laser weapon system in April.
"Lockheed Martin's mission is to deliver the best security solutions that help our customers stay ahead of their adversaries," said Chief Operating Officer Frank St. John. "Working with Rafael, our joint team will help bring this new, life-saving capability to our customers."
Israel's Elbit System is also working on an airborne based laser defense system, part of Israel's overall drive into having laser air defenses on land and in the air to confront emerging threats in the region.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at the Jerusalem Post.