Tomahawk missile being fired from USS Barry 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Roderick Eubanks/US Navy photo)
The air force is considering replacing the Hawk surface-toair missile, which been the backbone of the country’s air defense systems since 1965.
The MIM-23 Hawk is an American-made medium-range surface-to-air that was first supplied to Israel in 1965 and has since served as the main defense system against enemy aircraft. Its arrival was a significant success for the country and came after a long period of diplomatic negotiations with the US.
The missile was used extensively during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the IAF’s Air Defense Division, which operates the Hawk and Patriot Missiles in air defense missions, and played a key role during Juniper Cobra, the joint missile defense exercise held last year with the US.
Slated to replace the Hawk is David’s Sling, a missile defense system currently under development by Rafael in Israel and Raytheon in the US. David’s Sling would defend against Iranian missiles such as the M600, the Zelzal, Fajr and Fateh 110 deployed heavily in Hezbollah hands in Lebanon as well as other missiles with a range between 70 and 300 kilometers.
The IAF is planning on establishing the battalion that will operate David’s Sling in the near future so it will be ready to receive the missile defense system in 2012 when it is expected to become operational.
David’s Sling uses an interceptor called Stunner, fitted into a launcher
that can hold 16 missiles. It works together with an advanced
phased-array radar made by Israel Aerospace Industries.
A senior IAF officer said that even once David’s Sling is declared
operational it will still take some time before it is formatted to also
defend Israel’s skies against enemy aircraft.
The country’s main concerns with regards to air defense are Iranian-made
drones – such as the Ababil – which are known to be in Hezbollah hands,
and protecting commercial airlines from being hijacked by terrorists.
During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah flew a drone into Israel but it was intercepted by an IAF F-16 fighter jet.