Lockheed Martin, Israel's Rafael to develop laser weapon system

Lockheed Martin's logo is seen during Japan Aerospace 2016 air show in Tokyo, Japan, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

JERUSALEM, Dec 5 (Reuters) - U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and Israeli contractor Rafael have teamed up to create a high-energy laser weapon system, based on a technology already under development in Israel that could be market ready next year.

The idea, the companies said on Monday, is to produce a version of the Iron Beam, which is a laser-based air defence system being developed separately by Rafael and Israel's Ministry of Defense, geared towards the U.S. market and elsewhere.

Iron Beam passed a series of tests in the last year that "proved the operational capability of the system", they said.

Israel hopes to deploy Iron Beam as early as next year as a much cheaper alternative for neutralising enemy rockets and drones than the interceptor missiles it currently uses.

The system, a prototype of which was unveiled last year, uses lasers to super-heat and disable aerial threats.

"This agreement will expand and diversify the capabilities we can offer to a variety of customers," said Yoav Har-Even, CEO of state-owned Rafael.

Iron Beam is meant to be an addition to Israel's current air defences based on Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow - systems that launch interceptor missiles costing between tens of thousands and millions of dollars each.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Jason Neely

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