A new Israeli system designed to intercept medium-range missiles became operational on Sunday after it was unveiled at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US defense officials.
At the event at the IDF’s Hatzor base in central Israel, Netanyahu said that the “pioneering technology” of David’s Sling will help protect Israel against its enemies.
“I will reiterate, that whoever wants to strike us will be beaten, and those who threaten our existence are putting their own lives at risk,” he said, while adding that defending the home front is of the “utmost importance.”
Netanyahu also hailed the David’s Sling anti-missile system as an “important milestone” in US-Israeli defense cooperation and thanked the US for its longstanding support of the Israeli military and joint missile defense projects.
“Together we can meet challenges a lot better than any of us can alone,” he told American officials in attendance, including director of the US Missile Defense Agency Vice Admiral James Syring. “In this case, the white and blue is better together with the red, white and blue.”
David’s Sling was developed in a joint project by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the US Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency. It is meant to replace the Patriot missiles currently in Israel’s arsenal. The new system, which can shoot down medium-range missiles, can also be deployed against aircraft.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the ceremony that the new missile defense system was indispensable for Israel’s security.
“There is no alternative to this system,” Liberman said. “Thanks to this system, we will be able to deal with our enemies, which we unfortunately have.”
The David’s Sling anti-missile system is designed to shoot down incoming rockets with ranges of 40-300 kilometers (25-190 miles). It will make up the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layer missile defense capabilities.
The lowest layer is the Iron Dome system, capable of intercepting short-range rockets, small unmanned aerial vehicles and some mortar shells like those that have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip or from southern Lebanon. And at the top are the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which are intended to engage long-range ballistic missiles. The Arrow was put in use for the first time on March 17, when it downed an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile.
The David’s Sling system is designed to intercept the kind of missile that could, for example, be used to target a large ammonia storage tank in the northern city of Haifa, which the head of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group has threatened to hit in a future conflict. In response to local authorities’ fears that the 12,000 ton tank could cause cost tens of thousands of lives if it ruptures, the Haifa District Court ordered it shut.
AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.