David's Sling shoots down ballistic missile in trial

Israel, US conduct joint test of system designed to intercept intermediate, short-range rockets; meant to work with Iron Dome.

David's Sling defense system 370 (photo credit: Defense Ministry)
David's Sling defense system 370
(photo credit: Defense Ministry)
The Defense Ministry and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) held a successful test of the David’s Sling air defense system on Wednesday morning, in which a ballistic missile was shot down and destroyed.
David’s Sling is designed to intercept intermediate and short-range rockets and cruise missiles and should be effective against a good portion of Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal.
Yair Ramati, of the ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, said the trial was a “very complex procedure,” adding that David’s Sling is slated to become a defensive “workhorse” against large, powerful rockets and missiles that threaten Israel’s major cities.
Ramati said that radar systems act as the system’s eyes, the command and control center are its brain, and the interceptors are its arms.
“What’s special about it is that it knows how to intercept from a low altitude to a fairly high altitude in the atmosphere, covering a wide range of territory which I can’t unfortunately cite,” Ramati stated.
David’s Sling will be linked to an overarching missile defense network providing national coverage from a number of strategic locations, and will not be deployed in the form of batteries, like Iron Dome.
The trial saw a David’s Sling battery fire an interceptor at a ballistic target from short range, and examined the remainder of the system’s components for the first time, the ministry said in a statement.
After a ballistic missile was fired, a David’s Sling MMR radar identified it and passed along its trajectory to the fire management system, which calculated a defensive interception.
An interceptor was then fired, striking and destroying the target successfully.
The test was led by personnel from the Rafael defense corporation, which manufactures the system, as well as staff from the ministry, the air force, and the Pentagon.
Describing David’s Sling as a new and revolutionary system “in the family of interceptors and the world of missile defense systems,” the ministry stressed that once operational, it would form a layer in Israel’s growing multi-layered missile defense shield.
The shield currently consists of the Arrow system against ballistic missiles, and Iron Dome, which intercepts short and medium-range rockets. The Arrow 3 interception program, which intercepts long-range ballistic missiles in space, is still under development.
“David’s Sling will allow, in the near future, the State of Israel to deal with threats with far higher efficiency,” the ministry said.
Once operational, David’s Sling will act as a back-up to Arrow batteries, thereby “thickening defensive systems over the State of Israel against missiles and rockets,” the ministry added.
It described Wednesday’s trial as “an important milestone in Israel’s operational ability to defend itself, including against threats that are expected in the area.”
David’s Sling is being developed by Rafael in cooperation with the American Raytheon company, while its MMR radar was built by Elta, a subsidiary of IAI, and its command and control center was designed by Elisra, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems.
David’s Sling was first tested successfully in 2012 in a more limited trial. In January 2012, a David’s Sling battery stationed in southern Israel fired a two-stage interceptor missile and stopped an incoming missile.
The system was designed to counter Iranian missiles such as the M600, the Zelzal, Fajr and Fateh 110 in Hezbollah’s possession, as well as a range of rockets with a range between 70 km. and 300 km. It is slated to become operational in 2014.