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12 Nov, 2023 20:43

Israel strikes ‘landmark’ air defense deal

Finland, NATO’s newest member, is the first foreign country to acquire the David’s Sling system
Israel strikes ‘landmark’ air defense deal

Finland has reached an agreement to acquire Israel’s David’s Sling air defense system, making it the first foreign country to do so, the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday as the deal was signed. The agreement was hailed by the Israeli military as “historic,” while the country’s media was quick to call it a “landmark deal.”

The estimated sum of the purchase amounts to €317 million ($339 million), according to the ministry’s statement. Produced by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, David’s Sling is capable of intercepting missiles and rockets with a range of between 40km and 300km.

The Israeli Defense Ministry hailed it as “one of the most advanced systems in the world for intercepting ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and drones.” The system “has demonstrated very high-performance capabilities in war, in a variety of challenging scenarios,” it added.

Finland initially announced its intention to buy the system back in April, just a day after it joined NATO. “The David’s Sling system will extend the operational range of Finland’s ground-based air defense capabilities significantly,” Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said at the time, adding that it would help the nation to intercept targets “at high altitude.”

The system has been operational since 2017, but has barely been used in real-life circumstances, according to the Times of Israel. It made its first interception in May 2023 when it shot down a rocket fired at Tel Aviv from Gaza and later downed another similar projectile launched at Jerusalem the same month.

Amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Gaza-based Hamas militant group, the system has reportedly been used only once since October 7, even though Hamas has launched thousands of projectiles at Israel, some 2,000 of which have been intercepted by Israel’s other types of air defenses.

Finland was not the only foreign nation seeking to purchase the system as Ukraine has also repeatedly requested access to it amid the conflict with Russia. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky particularly made such a request at the Munich Security Conference in February. However, West Jerusalem has thus far turned down all such requests.