New Role? The US-Israel David's Sling, armed with its Stunner interceptor, is tested Nov. 29. The missile may be adapted for US and allied use. (Rafael)
TEL AVIV — Rafael and Raytheon are expanding their active defense alliance through co-production of the Israeli Iron Dome and possible adaptation of the jointly developed Stunner interceptor for use by the US Army and its allies.
The two firms are partners on the Stunner, developed for the David’s Sling Weapon System, a US-Israel government-funded and managed program in which Raytheon serves as principal subcontractor to Israel’s state-owned Rafael.
In the coming months, pending final approval by Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, Rafael plans to adopt a new agreement on Tamir, a maneuvering missile developed by Rafael for Israel’s Iron Dome intercepting batteries.
Under the agreement, Raytheon would lead a team of US subcontractors for co-production of Tamir-related components and subsystems, with final assembly and integration in Israel by Rafael.
While Israeli defense and industry officials had hoped to retain in-country all work on the short-range intercepting system, Pentagon officials and congressional leaders have conditioned release of some $680 million (minus sequestration) in promised funding on Israel’s agreement to establish US-based production.
Estimated funds to be spent in the US on co-produced subassemblies is $170 million, program sources said.
Initial funding to establish a US-based production capacity was included in the 2014 defense authorization bill passed last month, along with $220 million for procurement. Israel is slated to receive $205 million (minus sequestration) in 2013 funds and another $255 million (minus sequestration) in 2015. The administration has pledged another $460 million over the next two years, provided the two governments agree to terms for US-based manufacturing.
An Israeli program official said the government-to-government agreement should be concluded in coming weeks.
“We need to make sure that the target price of missiles containing US-built content come close to the price the government of Israel pays for missiles built here by Rafael,” the program source said on Jan. 2.
Pini Yungman, director of Rafael’s Missile Defense Systems Directorate, said once the government agreement is signed, Rafael would move forward with its own agreement with Raytheon. He said Rafael selected Raytheon after discussions with other leading US missile firms, which were either unwilling or unable to meet its cost and schedule requirements.
“We didn’t start with Raytheon,” Yungman said. “But after careful consideration, we understood the strategic partnership that has proven itself with David’s Sling would provide the most benefit on Iron Dome and plans, in future, to extend our activities for possible use by the US Army,” he said.
Yungman said Raytheon-produced subassemblies of the Tamir interceptor strengthens a marketing agreement between the two firms aimed at prospective sales of the Iron Dome to the US Army.
In parallel, he said Raytheon is leading efforts to adapt the joint kinetic-kill Stunner interceptor for possible use by the US Army and allied forces. Specifically, the two firms are seeking Pentagon approval to integrate Stunner into a fourth-generation intercepting system that utilizes Raytheon-developed Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) radars, launchers and engagement control stations already fielded by the US Army.
Industry sources claim the two-stage, dual-mode Stunner offers a low-cost option to single-stage, radar-guided PAC-3 missiles produced by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin.
Based on data derived from three successful intercept tests and an extensive cost analysis by Rafael-Raytheon partners, a US Stunner adapted to Army requirements could cost less than half of the estimated $3.5 million unit cost of existing PAC-3 missiles, and less than 25 percent of the planned PAC-3 missile segment enhanced missiles, sources here said.
Yungman insisted the proposed US Stunner, launched from existing PAC-3 Patriot infrastructure, would enhance, rather than compete with, intercepting missions now performed by Lockheed-built missiles.
“From day one, we designed this as a common interceptor for the US Army,” he said. “That doesn’t mean Stunner should replace PAC-3 interceptors. It just means American users will have additional options, since the same PAC-3 battery and the same PAC-3 radar will be capable of launching two or even three kinds of interceptors.”
Chris King, who is Yungman’s counterpart at Raytheon Missile Systems and manages Israeli cooperative programs, declined to provide details of cost and performance benefits associated with the proposed US Stunner.
In a late December statement, King said the two firms are working “seamlessly” on development, testing and production of the Stunner interceptor and are “on track” to reach operational capability in defense of Israel.
As for prospective US and allied sales, he said, “Raytheon is committed to defense technology alliances that lead to the delivery of affordable and reliable systems capable of guarding the United States and its allies against a range of threats. … We continue to work closely with Rafael on this important program.”
Under their existing agreement, prime contractor Rafael and Raytheon share equally in development and production of the David Sling’s Stunner, a hypersonic, highly maneuverable two-stage missile designed to destroy threats through impact. Rafael is responsible for core capabilities, including the Stunner’s dual-mode seeker, computerized three-pulse motor, steering control and its lightweight, aerodynamic dolphin-shaped design.
Raytheon co-develops Stunner’s inertial measurement unit and other software and leads a team of more than 10 US subcontractors producing missile-firing units, composite canisters and rocket boosters.
If adapted for the US and allied markets, Raytheon will assume prime contractor status, with 60 percent of work to be performed in the US by the Raytheon-led team.
Part of Israel’s planned multilayered active defense intercepting network, the David’s Sling Weapon System is planned for initial deployment this year. It aims to defend hundreds of square kilometers of airspace against an array of threats.
“For the first time, a single system offers an affordable, flexible, hit-to-kill defense against a full range of threats from the ground to the atmosphere,” Yungman said. “And because of its extended range and vast coverage capabilities, only a very small number of launch sites are needed to defend countries or operational areas larger than the state of Israel.”
Raytheon is nearing the end of its first low-rate production lot at its Tucson, Ariz., facility and both firms are ramping up for full-rate production. In parallel, the industry partners are working with government program officials toward a final intercept test that, if successful, will trigger David’s Sling transfer to Israel Air Force operators. ■