A new Israeli device designed to build on the abilities of Iron Dome and head off more advanced incoming rockets has been successfully tested by the Jewish state. “David’s Sling,” a mid- to long-range missile interceptor currently under development, shot down a rocket in its first test this past Sunday. With its operational range of 70-200 kilometers, the new device will work in tandem with Iron Dome short-range and Arrow long-range missile defense systems.
Israeli officials reported that David’s Sling, presented as an antidote to the longer-range missiles of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorists and Syria, shot down a target rocket in a clandestine November 20 desert trial that took place at the same time as heavy shelling exchanges between Israel and Hamas-ruled Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Seriously concerned about worsening security on the fronts with Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, and the accelerating international face-off over Iran’s fear-inducing nuclear program, Israel has been speeding up its work on its multi-tier missile shield, with significant assistance from the United States.
A source in Israel’s defense industries disclosed that David’s Sling was originally scheduled for live trials in 2013, and that this test run was held now “given the general sense of urgency.”
David’s Sling utilizes technology that is similar to that of the Iron Dome system, which Israel claims to have demonstrated a 90 percent success rate, intercepting 421 of the rockets fired from Gaza over eight days of combat that ended in a negotiated ceasefire last Wednesday.
Additionally called Magic Wand, David’s Sling is manufactured by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and U.S. firm Raytheon Co. “The completion of the program will be a significant layer for Israel’s multi-tiered anti-missile defense system,” said soon-to-be-retiring Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Iron Dome is the lowest of the tiers, going up against the guerrilla rockets of Gaza and Hezbollah. The widely heralded anti-missile system was originally developed to handle ranges of up to 70 km (45 miles), but designers say this interception capability is being expanded to approximately 250 km (155 miles).
The highest-level anti-missile defense tier is Israel’s Arrow ballistic interceptor, formulated to strike down long-range Iranian and Syrian missiles at atmospheric altitudes - high enough to safely demolish any non-conventional warheads those missiles might conceivably be carrying.
Israeli officials explain that David’s Sling would serve as a bridge between Iron Dome and Arrow, preventing any impact by rockets that may be too quick and powerful for Iron Dome to handle, or any ballistic missiles that are missed by Arrow.
Israel has already deployed the successor to the original Arrow interceptor, known as Arrow II, along with Iron Dome. The latter, which is also manufactured by Rafael, shot down hundreds of Palestinian rockets during the latest battle with Gaza terrorists.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, which is known to be armed and financed by Iran, warned Israel on Sunday that thousands of rockets would be shot over Tel Aviv and other cities throughout Israel if it deigns to attack Lebanon.
The Fajr-5 missiles, with a range of some 75 km that make them potentially capable of hitting Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, and the 175 kg (386 lb) warheads that would likely accompany them, are the most powerful and long-range rockets to have been fired from the Gaza Strip. But Hezbollah, which battled Israel to a standoff in a 34-day war six years ago, boasts that it has been newly fortifying its arms supply since then and now possesses a much deadlier arsenal than Hamas in Gaza.
Similar to its established counterparts Iron Dome and Arrow, the budding David’s Sling anti-missile system has attracted serious interest from foreign clients, particularly since it is also said to be capable of intercepting cruise missiles. Two former Soviet satellite states in the Balkans that have requested anonymity are among the most prominent would-be purchasers of David’s Sling.
A recently retired Israeli defense official who has been briefed on the international contacts regarding David’s Sling connected the expressed interest of those Balkan governments to anxieties about Russian cruise missiles. “There’s a big bear next door that they want to keep away from their door,” the Israeli ex-official emphasized.