Amid the Hamas-Israel escalation, videos claiming to show Israel’s new Iron Beam directed-energy weapon air defense system in action have become viral across various social media platforms.
One such video posted to X, formerly Twitter, shows footage from a video game called Arma 3. Still, it had received some 30K likes and reposts and 5.7 million views at the time of this writing.
Another video circulating on X, TikTok, Telegram and YouTube appears to show Tel Aviv-bound rockets being intercepted.
Jenya zub LIVE NEWS, a Telegram channel with nearly 36,000 subscribers that posts in Russian and Ukrainian, wrote that the video showed Iron Beam in use.
“Preliminarily, the video shows the work of the newest Israeli laser air defense system ‘Iron Beam.’ The laser shoots down aerial targets. Air defense of the future,” Jenya zub LIVE NEWS posted on October 15.
That is false.
Some social media users noted a diagonal beam of light that flashed across the screen at the time of interception. The beam appeared to cut through two points of light in the sky.
But the Iron Beam interceptions are silent and invisible.
Like Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, Iron Beam was developed by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.
Iron Beam employs a 100kW fiber laser on a swivel, which can hit targets as far as an estimated 7 kilometers away. By contrast, Iron Dome missiles can intercept objects up to 70km away. While a missile interceptor destroys the target on impact, a laser has to be held on the target for several seconds.
Iron Beam is expected to complement, not replace, Iron Dome and other elements of Israel’s air defenses. Iron Beam also has its advantages. It can be integrated with a variety of systems and platforms and is expected to limit collateral damage.
Also, Iron Beam’s laser is much cheaper to employ than Iron Dome’s missiles, which cost tens of thousands of dollars each.
“The Iron Beam’s interceptions are silent, they’re invisible, and they only cost around $3.50” apiece,” former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in April 2022.
While science fiction films portray laser weapons with distinctive sound and visual effects, most laser beams used in defense applications are not visible to the naked eye.
Iron Beam, likewise, cannot be seen during the day or night.
While an Iron Beam promotional video released in October 2022 showed a briefly visible beam, it was a visual effect added after the fact.
"The beam was just shown as a visible aid, otherwise the clip would basically show nothing, but the beam itself … is not visible to the naked eye,” Aurora Intel, an open-source intelligence account on X that focuses on the Israeli theater of conflict, told Polygraph.info in a written comment.
The same promotional video includes footage showing Iron Beam targeting a drone, a mortar and a rocket. Those objects are destroyed without the laser beam being visible.
Open source investigators say the footage in Jenya zub LIVE NEWS’ post is authentic and shows Tamir missiles fired from Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system intercepting Qassam rockets fired by Hamas’ military wing.
Aurora Intel attributed the flash of light visible at the time of interception to a lens flare. Lens flares occur when light from a bright source hits the camera lens, causing starbursts, or in this case, a very long diffraction spike (a line radiating from a bright source) to be visible in photos and videos.
Tyler Rogoway, Creator/Editor-In-Chief of The War Zone, described the light as "glare from the detonation of a Tamir."
In a video apparently showing the same interception from a different angle, a much smaller starburst effect is visible at the points of impact. A long beam of light is not visible in that video.
After the Israel–Hamas war erupted on October 7, Israel announced it could deploy Iron Beam years ahead of schedule. However, there has been no evidence thus far that Israel has used Iron Beam in the conflict.