Air Force successfully tests ‘expanded capability’ of David’s Sling defense system

Months after first real-world interceptions during flareup with Gaza, IAF says missile defense system will ‘significantly improve air defense layers’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

The David's Sling system (Defense Ministry)
The David's Sling system (Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry and military said Sunday that the Israeli Air Force and Rafael defense firm had successfully completed a recent series of tests with the David’s Sling medium-range air defense system.

According to a joint statement, David’s Sling faced off against “advanced threats,” expanding the system’s capability “and significantly improving the air defense layers of the State of Israel.”

“The existing capabilities of the system were tested in a number of challenging scenarios, which prove the capabilities of the system during conflict,” the ministry said calling it an “important milestone.”

Brig. Gen. Eyal Grinboim, the IAF’s chief of air staff, said in a statement that “through testing this model, we have successfully demonstrated our ability to carry out successful interceptions even in the most challenging scenarios. Soldiers have proven their outstanding operational capabilities yet again.”

David’s Sling, developed by Rafael, successfully made its first real-world interceptions during a recent flareup of violence between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in May. It shot down a rocket heading to Tel Aviv, and two days later downed a missile aimed at Jerusalem.

In 2018, the system failed to intercept rockets launched from Syria, with officials citing technical reasons that could not be published due to security concerns. At the time, the IDF said the lessons it had learned from that incident — the first known operational use of David’s Sling — “will be implemented in the air defense system.”

The medium-range David’s Sling is expected to fill a hole in Israel’s missile defense array, which includes the short-range Iron Dome and the long-range Arrow system, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

Iron Dome has redrawn the contours of Israel’s conflicts with Gaza since it was first rolled out over a decade ago, during a similar flareup with the Palestinian enclave. Until now, Iron Dome batteries have been the main defensive weapon used against rockets fired on Israel from Gaza or Lebanon, including at medium ranges.

In 2020 the IDF carried out a major air defense drill that included testing a version of David’s Sling. In the test, the missile defense system was pitted against ballistic missiles which follow a fixed and predetermined trajectory, as well as more difficult-to-hit cruise missiles.

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