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David’s Sling makes first operational interception

The medium- to long-range surface-to-air system supplements the missile defense provided by the Iron Dome, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3.

David's Sling. Credit: Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office.
David's Sling. Credit: Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office.

David’s Sling, Israel’s newest anti-missile air defense system, successfully shot down its first rocket operationally during a barrage from the Gaza Strip targeting Israeli civilian centers on Wednesday.

It supplements the missile defense provided by the Iron Dome, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3.

The system was developed by Haifa-based Rafael Advanced Defensive Systems and U.S. defense giant Raytheon Technologies.

It became operational in April 2017 and can intercept missiles fired by countries such as Iran and Syria, including “large-caliber rockets, short-range ballistic missiles and other developing threats,” the Israel Air Force said.

Its projectiles, known as stunners, are two-stage missiles that use multiple sensors. They are launched in a near-vertical orientation from a stationary location that can defend the entire country. They have a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles).

“Israel is preparing for a multi-front counteroffensive in the face of Iranian-sponsored missile and rocket threats from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria. Demonstrating David’s Sling capabilities in the South sends a message to Hezbollah and Hamas ahead of a larger confrontation on other fronts,” said Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The system’s interceptor missiles carry no warhead and are designed to strike targets directly, defeating them with kinetic force. Each firing unit can carry up to 12 missiles. In 2018, Israel fired interceptors from David’s Sling at ballistic missiles launched from Syria, but the intercepts were aborted after the Israel Defense Forces determined the rockets were not a threat.

In April, Finland become the first foreign purchaser of David’s Sling in a deal worth some $347 million, with further options worth $237 million, according to the Finnish Defense Ministry.

“This acquisition will create a new capability for the Finnish Defence Forces to intercept targets at high altitude. At the same time we are continuing the ambitious and long-term development of Finland’s defense capability in a new security environment,” said Finland’s Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen.

Finland made the announcement one day after joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as its 31st member.

Israel began developing David’s Sling in 2006 and signed an agreement with the United States in 2008 to co-develop it. From 2006 to 2020, the United States contributed more than $2.4 billion in aid for its development, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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