Israel replaces Patriot with David's Sling

Patriot battery in Israel credit: Reuters Baz Ratner
Patriot battery in Israel credit: Reuters Baz Ratner

Rafael's David's Sling is a collaboration that illustrates the combined strength of Israel's defense industry.

Israel's multi-layered air defense system proved itself last month during Iran's unprecedented attack, in which the country was targeted by 110 ballistic missiles, 185 drones and 36 cruise missiles. In the wake of the successful interceptions of all these missiles, Israel's Air Force is in the process of bidding farewell to its Patriot surface-to-air (SAM) missile defense systems, known as Yahalom in the IDF.

This is the oldest air defense system, with roots from Israel's point of view in Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's trip to the US in 1962, following which Israel received five batteries of the "Hawk" system as a gift from President John F. Kennedy. The Patriot is an upgraded version of the Hawk.

Today Israel's air defense system is based on four Israeli-made systems: Iron Dome, David's Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3. However, in the wake of events over the past six months, some question whether phasing out the Patriot missiles might damage Israel's air defense capabilities.

What targets was the Patriot designed for and what threats has it intercepted?

The Patriot is a system designed for a wide range of threats such as drones, aircraft, combat helicopters, and ballistic missiles including long-range threats and its first baptism of fire was in the Gulf War in 1991. The first interception by Yahalom was in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, against a drone fired from the Gaza Strip. From 2014 until today, the Patriot batteries have intercepted 19 threats, nine of them in the current war.

If the system has intercepted threats in the current war then why dispense with them?

A professional source familiar with the issue told "Globes" that the system is being replaced by Rafael's David's Sling, which as part of Israel's multi-layered air defense system focuses on intercepting short to medium range threats. While Israel has refrained from upgrading the Patriot batteries, it has in May 2023.

Rafael's David's Sling is a collaboration that illustrates the combined strength of Israel's defense industry. The system's MMR radar is manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) ELTA unit and is more powerful than the Patriot's radar, enabling detection of the firing point, real-time calculation of the rate of the impact point, as well as range correction. Then there is the Golden Almond command and control system, which was developed by Elbit Systems Elisra unit.

The end result is that David's Sling is an Israeli product very close to the PAC-3 level, the most advanced interceptor of the Patriot series but significantly cheaper. While each PAC-3 interceptor costs about $6 million, David's Sling interceptors cost Israel about $700,000 each, making David's Sling more preferable for Israel than the Patriot.

What are the overall costs of David's Sling compared with the Patriot?

Last year, Finland procured the David's Sling system from Israel for €316 million (about $336 million). The system is being developed by the Ministry of Defense MAFAT DDR&D (Directorate of Defense Research & Development) with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the major local production costs significantly cuts costs compared with prices for a system produced abroad. In addition to the economic benefits there is the knowhow gained by developing the system, and especially as David's slingshot is a national system designed to cover specific areas that complement Iron Dome.

For the sake of comparison, a December 2022 study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) entitled "Patriot for Ukraine: What does it mean?" said that procurement of a new Patriot battery costs $1.1 billion, about $400 million of which is for the system and about $690 million for interceptors.

What other layers are included in Israel's air defense system?

Above David's Sling are the Arrow 3 for intercepting ballistic missiles outside of the atmosphere and the Arrow 2 for intercepting missiles within the atmosphere - both manufactured by IAI. Beneath David's Sling is another system produced by Rafael - Iron Dome for short-range threats. Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 with David's Sling did most of the work in intercepting the missiles launched last month by Iran.

With the costs of intercepting the missiles fired from Iran estimated at more than $1 billion, with each Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 interceptor costing about $1.5 million and $2 million respectively, if Israel had used equivalent US systems, the cost would have been far more expensive. The interception cost of the US THAAD system equivalent to Arrow 2 and Arrow 3, is estimated at $11.2 million, according to a professional source familiar with the costs. He points out that when Saudi Arabia decided to procure seven THAAD batteries, it paid about $2 billion for each battery.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on May 1, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Patriot battery in Israel credit: Reuters Baz Ratner
Patriot battery in Israel credit: Reuters Baz Ratner
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