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21 October 2015

Seoul ADEX 2015: Rafael Goes C-UAV with IRON BEAM HEL Based System

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is showcasing its new IRON BEAM HEL based C-RAM and C-UAV system during Seoul ADEX 2015. Speaking to MT on Wednesday, the marketing and business development manager of Rafael's land manoeuvre systems directorate, explained that IRON BEAM is a mobile solid state laser weapon system that builds on the company's experience with laser systems that started some 20 years ago. 

One of Rafael's earlier HEL weapon systems called THOR is in service in Israel where the Army's engineer corps uses the 2kW system that is mounted on an APC to neutralise unidentified explosive objects, the company official indicated. However, IRON BEAM is a more ambitious system that deals with small flying objects such as rockets that fly at high speeds. The company official indicated that IRON BEAM has pinpoint accuracy, a low cost per shot and virtually unlimited ammunition with the system's technology having been tested against RAM since 2010 and against UAVs since this year. 

Key components of the IRON BEAM's HEL system are its generator, cooling element and, most importantly, its beam director. The latter component is, "the most challenging," Rafael's representative said, as, "you need very good optics and algorithms to engage a small target travelling at 200 to 300 meters per second," while cooling too is an issue with HEL based systems in general. A RF radar is used for cueing the system's elaborate suite of cameras which are needed to identify the target that has to be engaged and then find its weakest spot, this in order to shorten the time needed to neutralise the target in question. These cameras make extensive use of image processing, an area in which, "we are leaders," the company official boasted. A laser illuminator is used to get more details of the target once it has been sighted while a LRF is used to measure range. A possible loss of the energy that is needed to take out the target is prevented by using two beams which can hit an area, "the size of a coin." Asked about the risk of collateral damage, Rafael's marketing and business development manager indicated that HEL based weapon systems, such as IRON BEAM in fact minimize this damage as there is no debris of one's own kinetic interceptors.

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