TEL AVIV — In Sunday ceremonies marking operational deployment of the jointly developed U.S.-Israel David's Sling Weapon System, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: "Whoever seeks to hit us will be hit. Whoever threatens our existence places himself in existential danger."
Speaking ahead of the Israeli defense minister, Air Force commander and other dignitaries at the Hatzor Airbase, Netanyahu flagged the high priority ascribed to defending Israel against the growing rocket and missile threat. "We have pioneering technology here and Israel continues to lead the world in this field," he said.
Developed by state-owned Rafael and its U.S. partner Raytheon, David's Sling is the newest layer of Israel's highly integrated and overlapping, four-layered network of active defenses aimed at intercepting short-range ballistic missiles and long-range rockets. The system uses the same multimission radar developed by Elta Systems for the Iron Dome and serves as a bridge between the lower-tier Iron Dome and higher intercepting layers provided by the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems. Unlike the blast warhead featured on the Iron Dome's Tamir intercepting missile, David's Sling's maneuverable, two-stage, hit-to-kill Stunner missile is designed to destroy threats through sheer force of impact.
The Israeli Air Force began taking deliveries of the system last month and will continue to expand its operational crews in the months and years ahead. Future block versions of the David’s Sling will be optimized to also defend against cruise missiles and attack drones.
In his remarks, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman credited Washington’s contribution to the nearly 13-year-old joint development project, noting that the combination of the "intellectual capabilities" of both nations augments Israel’s security.
"Today we are finally seeing the operationalization of the system; a system that has no substitute and cannot be bought in any place in the world. This is, of course, combined with intellectual capabilities of ours and of our friends in the United States, and because of this combination we are able to answer whomever is trying to harm us," Liberman said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman attend a ceremony to announce the operational capacity of teh country's David's Sling missile defence system at the Hatzor Air Force base on April 2, 2017.
Photo Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Israel’s Ministry of Defense selected Raytheon in 2004 over a competing bid by Boeing to serve as subcontractor to Rafael on the David’s Sling Weapon System. At the time, the project was known as the Short-Range Ballistic Missile Defense to distinguish it from the much heavier and longer-range threats that the U.S.-Israel Arrow was designed to intercept. Arrow is developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, with support from Boeing, its U.S. partner.
Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, Israeli Air Force commander, said Israel is obliged to develop such innovative capabilities given the "unstable and indecisive Middle East" theater.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.