Israel finishes testing new missile system built with $150mn US aid

A test of a new Israeli air defense system, David’s Sling Weapon System. © Israel's Ministry of Defense
A new Israeli mid-range missile interceptor developed in cooperation with the US has successfully passed its final trials and is expected to enter service next year, Israel’s Defense Ministry said.

A missile defense system called David’s Sling is designed to intercept a wide range of targets, from rocket artillery strikes, to aircraft, to low-flying ballistic missiles, at ranges of between 100 and 200 kilometers.It is expected to fill the operational gap between Israel’s short-range Iron Dome system and the Arrow ballistic interceptor, which are already in use.

According to the Israeli Defense Ministry, the new system will be further developed in order to be capable of intercepting unmanned aircraft, Israel’s Haaretz reported.

David’s Sling will be handed over to the troops “at the end of the first quarter of 2016,” Yair Ramati, head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, said, as quoted by AFP.

David’s Sling, also known as the Magic Wand, is designed to replace the Patriot missiles purchased from the US, which are currently being used by Israeli forces.

The system has been created by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US defense contractor Raytheon. It has also received significant support from the US: Israel requested $150 million in aid from the country in order to produce some parts of the system in America, which the US granted, Haaretz reported.

The tests of the missile defense system were conducted by the defense ministry's research and development agency, MAFAAT, and the American Missile Defense Agency and included several real-time interceptions.

"In trials, the system's capabilities were tested in a number of scenarios that simulate the threats it was designed to deal with,” Israel’s defense ministry said, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post. Yair Ramati called the results of the tests “excellent.”

"The emphasis [of the new system] is on [intercepting] guided, maneuvering threats carrying dozens of kilograms of warheads, which are highly destructive," said one of the heads of the David’s Sling program at defense technology company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

Earlier this month, Israel also successfully tested an advanced version of its Arrow ballistic interceptor system – the Arrow-3 – by shooting down a target from above the earth’s atmosphere.

The announcements concerning the missile defense systems’ tests come amid a new spiral of tensions between Israel and its northern neighbors. Lebanon’s Hezbollah are accusing Israel of assassinating Samir Kuntar, a former member of a Lebanese militant group, in what they term an air strike on the Damascus suburb of Jermana. Hezbollah’s statement also mentions “civilian casualties” but gives no further details, TASS reported.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said that the Syrian government "condemned the terrorist attack against Jermana, which resulted in the death of civilians and Arab fighter Kuntar,” as he gave an interview to the Al-Manar TV channel adding that “Israel was interested in the man’s death more than anybody else.”

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the incident or made any comment on it yet.
Two missiles were fired into Israel from southern Lebanon following the incident in Syria with no casualties reported, Israeli media stated. Israel’s forces responded with “targeted artillery fire,” AFP reported.