JERUSALEM — U.S. and Israeli partners in the developmental David’s Sling program marked a major milestone Nov. 25 with their first hit-to-kill intercept of a target missile.
Developed by state-owned Rafael Ltd. and Raytheon Missile Systems, the jointly funded David’s Sling Weapon System (DSWS) aims to provide a cost-effective, broad-area defense against long-range rockets, short-range ballistic missiles and, eventually, cruise missiles.
The full system test took place at Rafael’s test range Nov. 20 in the Negev Desert as Israel’s Air Defense Force employed Iron Dome interceptors — also by Rafael — in round-the-clock defense against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
“In a week distinguished by more than 350 Iron Dome intercepts, now we have another stunning achievement in the realm of active defense,” an Israeli industry source said.
An official announcement has yet to be released by Rafael or Israel’s MoD, but news of the successful intercept test spread rapidly among military officers and industry executives gathered here for an annual Technologies Group Aerospace Conference and Exhibition.
Known here as Magic Wand, the DSWS is planned as the second layer in Israel’s multi-tiered national missile defense network, tasked with intercepting threats eluding Israel’s first layer — the Iron Dome — as well as ballistic missiles leaking through the protective envelope of the U.S.-Israel Arrow.
Future plans call for expanding the capabilities into a full multi-role system, capable of intercepting not only rockets and missiles, but aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.
“Everything that will be in the atmosphere in the relevant time will be intercepted by David’s Sling,” a program official told Defense News in an interview earlier this year.
“As a concept, we’re not developing a system only for this [anti-rocket, anti-missile] mission. We’re trying as much as we can to develop a multi-role air defense system that later on could be integrated on ground or naval platforms,” the program official said.
Unlike the Rafael-developed Iron Dome interceptor, which is based on the firm’s proven Python-series of air-to-air missiles, the David’s Sling interceptor — known in the United States as Stunner — is an entirely new design. It has a distinctive dolphin-shaped head and has no warhead or proximity fuse since it is designed to destroy targets through the sheer force of impact.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written Nov. 20 but Israel’s military censor did not approve its release until Nov. 25.