MILAN — Finland’s multiyear quest to buy a high-altitude air defense capability is one step closer to materializing after the U.S. State Department approved the export of the U.S.-Israeli David’s Sling system to the Nordic state.

Only a day after it officially joined NATO in April, the Finnish government announced its intention to buy the long-range air defense system, developed jointly by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

At the time, Finland and Israel were clear that in order for the procurement to move ahead, the sale was subject to Washington’s approval. Five months later, the green light has been granted, the Israeli MoD said in an Aug. 3 statement.

The Finnish version of the David’s Sling system will be jointly developed by Israeli and American companies, led by Rafael Advanced Systems and Raytheon Technologies in partnership with Finnish vendors, the Israeli statement noted.

The contract is worth approximately $346 million and will make Finland the first export customer for the system.

In 2020, the Nordic state invited the following defense companies to showcase their surface-to-air missile platforms as part of a tender for high-altitude capabilities: Diehl Defence, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, MBDA and Rafael.

Former Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen announced in March 2022 that the final contenders were the two Israeli firms, Rafael and IAI, before settling on David’s Sling one year later. The selection process had prized systems capable of increasing the operational range of ground-based air defense capabilities and intercept targets at high altitudes, a minimum of 15,000 meters.

According to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report published in 2016, the David’s Sling would be able to counter “long-range rockets and slower-flying cruise missiles fired at range from 40 kilometers (25 miles) to 300 kilometers (180 miles).” It is also said to be able to intercept medium-range ballistic missiles and drones.

The timing for when the system will be delivered to Finland remains unclear.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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