Israel's million dollar defense missile

David's Sling credit: Rafael spokesperson
David's Sling credit: Rafael spokesperson

The first-ever operational use of David Sling this week is another step forward in Israel's efforts to neutralize the biggest threat from its enemies.

On Wednesday Israel intercepted a rocket from Gaza over central Israel using its David's Sling missile defense system for the first time.

Islamic Jihad's rocket arsenal is much less impressive than the missiles at the disposal of Hamas and Hezbollah. This is reflected in the fact that as of Thursday afternoon of the 594 rockets fired towards Israel only 394 made it over the border and 124 fell in Gaza. In other words 22% of the rockets launched by Islamic Jihad during Operation Shield and Arrow failed to make it into Israel. Of those 391 rockets that di reach Israel, 175 that were going to fall on populated areas were intercepted by Iron Dome, which has had a 95% success rate in the current operation.

Iron Dome, which is the short range line of defense in Israel's layered missile defense, is manufactured by Rafael Advance Defense Systems and was first operated during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and by Operation Protective Edge it was recording a 90% success rate in intercepting rockets. Iron Dome includes search and guidance radar, command and control features and the Tamir interceptor missile, which cost $50,000 each.

The next layer in Israel's air missile defense is the David's Sling system, designed to intercept short to medium range threats including ballistic missiles, sea-launched missiles, aircraft missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. David's Sling was developed by Israel's HOMA Administration in MAFAT (Administration for the Development of Weapons and the Technological Infrastructures) at the Ministry of Defense and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), led by Rafael and Raytheon.

David's Sling includes multi mission radar (MMR), which was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) ELTA unit. The Golden Almond command and control system was developed by Elbit Systems Elisra Division. The US was a partner in both developing and financing the project and can interface with US defense systems.

"Jihad and Iran understood that there is a new player in the game"

"What is great about David's Sling and Iron Dome and the Arrow (Israel's long-range missile defense system) is that they know how to distinguish, Yehoshua Kalisky, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's National Defense Research Institute and former senior Ministry of Defense official told "Globes." He said that in contrast to Iron Dome, which explodes near the target, David's Sling hits the missile directly. "It knows how to maneuver using a radar that locates targets and an electro-optical sensor that hits the relevant target," he explained. "The great thing about David's Sling is its ability to maneuver. It moves at a hypersonic speed, over Mach 7, so no missile from Islamic Jihad or Hamas has the ability to deal with it."

The first operational use of David's Sling during Operation Shield and Arrow, which was successfully completed, is encouraging, but it is important to remember that the power of the relevant launches by Islamic Jihad is not comparable with the power we will see in Hamas's systems. Furthermore, each interception by the system is much more expensive than Iron Dome, since the cost of each interceptor missile is about $1 million.

"Islamic Jihad is not capable of pushing Israel to the limit," added Kalisky. In his view, the aim of the current escalation is an Iranian desire to test how Israel will defend itself against the rockets.

"The success of David's Sling has been a blow for them, and it is a fact that after the interception they started talks about a ceasefire" he said. "They got a shock, and realized that there is a new player on the field. It is true that Islamic Jihad has less capabilities than Hamas, but from experience it is known that time is on their side. After all, Hamas started with Kassams that Shimon Peres called 'flying tubes', and today they can reach as far as Netanya."

IAI cooperates with the US

The next layer, the highest, is the Arrow 2, which is designed to intercept medium and long-range missiles, and which is developed and produced by IAI. It consists of three main systems: Gold Etrog Zahav, the command and control center that is considered one of the most advanced in the world, and which is produced by; the Green Pine and Super Green Pine radar systems that are used to track and identify ballistic missiles, and are developed and manufactured by IAI's ELTA. According to previous estimates, the cost of each Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 interceptor missile is about $3 million.

Arrow 3, in contrast to Arrow 2, is intended solely for intercepting extra-atmosphere long-range missiles, and was delivered to the Israel Air Force in January 2017. The main contractor for the development of the system is IAI's MLM division, in collaboration with ELTA, which is responsible for the radar detection system. At the same time, Elisra develops the system responsible for managing the firing, and the US company Boeing company partners IAI in development and production. The rocket engine that lifts the Arrow missile into space is developed and manufactured by government company Tomer, and there are also components developed by Rafael and IAI's MLM.

Due to technological progress by Israel's enemies, Israel and the US have been developing the Arrow 4 since 2021, which will be even more expensive.

Iron Beam will surround Israel with a laser wall

In March 2022, the then Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, decided to advance development and production of the Iron Beam laser system for intercepting rockets, the first of its kind in the world, which is designed to respond to rocket attacks and unmanned aircraft within a range of up to 10 kilometers. The following month, the Ministry of Defense in collaboration with Rafael carried out a series of tests on the system, which successfully intercepted unmanned aerial vehicles, mortar shells, rockets and anti-tank missiles. Lockheed Martin is investing $1 billion in the Iron Beam system.

According to former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Iron Beam was meant to be operational in 2023 and in the medium to long term it will be able to "surround Israel with a laser wall that will protect us from missiles, rockets, drones and other threats, and in fact it will take away from the enemy the strongest card it has to play against us." Making the system operational will be tremendous economic news and save Israel many millions of shekels from repeated use of Iron Dome missiles to neutralize the many rockets fired at Israel.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on May 11, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

David's Sling credit: Rafael spokesperson
David's Sling credit: Rafael spokesperson
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