Did Israel withdraw from Swiss air-defense tender due to U.S. pressure?

Rafael Advanced Defense System's David's Sling was a top contender...until they failed to bid.

May 17, 2019 02:41
2 minute read.
David's Sling

The David's Sling air defense system intercepts target during flight test. (photo credit: THE MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY (MDA))


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Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems pulled its David’s Sling surface-to-air missile defense system from a Swiss tender following pressure from the United States.

The David Sling system, which became operational two years ago, was first used last year against two SS-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missiles launched from Syria, but it missed its mark and has not been used again.

But according to Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper, the system itself was not the reason behind withdrawing from the tender, but rather pressure from Washington which wanted their Patriot system to win.

“We cannot sell everything we want,” an anonymous Israeli official was quoted by NNZ as saying

The Swiss defense ministry last year earmarked 1.3 billion-1.5 billion Swiss francs to buy a surface-to-air missile defense system that can protect 15,000 km² and effectively engage targets beyond 12,000m high at a distance of 50 km.

David’s Sling, also known as “Magic Wand,” is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, and cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300 km.
The system, NZZ said, “was tailored to the operational requirements of Switzerland perfectly.”

According to a report last year in Defense News, David’s Sling was on the short list for the missile competition along with Raytheon’s Patriot and Eurosam’s SAMP/T. But while it was considered a top contender, Rafael failed to submit a bid, effectively withdrawing from the tender.

David’s Sling is a joint Israeli-US project, with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems collaborating with Raytheon. Other components of the system were developed by Elta - a subdivision of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) - which developed the system’s radar, and the Elisra subdivision of Elbit Systems, which developed the command and control mechanisms.

“The David’s Sling weapon system is an important layer as part of the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture operated by the IAF to defend Israel against medium-range missiles among other threats,” read a statement given by Israel’s Ministry of Defense to The Jerusalem Post when asked if Israel pulled out of the Swiss tender due to American pressure.

“Israel considers Switzerland an important strategic partner, and the Ministry of Defense sees great value and importance in the cooperation between our countries,” the statement added.

According to the ministry, “Its capabilities are constantly developed to the operational needs against existing and future threats in the region,” and recently Israel and the US “completed a series of interception tests to demonstrate the system’s advanced capabilities in different scenarios that simulate the future threats that the David’s Sling Weapon System may confront in battle.”

Rafael declined to comment.

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