David’s Sling missile defense system passes key trial, ministry says

Test comes less than a year after projectiles fail to intercept rockets from Syria in midrange aerial defense system’s first known operational use

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Israel’s midrange missile interceptor, David’s Sling, managed to thwart a series of threats, passing a key test on its way to becoming operational, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said the aerial defense system passed a drill “simulating future threats that the system may face in a confrontation,” the ministry said in a statement.

A spokesperson declined to specify what the test or the threats entailed.

Missile Defense Directorate head Moshe Patel said the capabilities tested in the drill would now be deployed by the air force, which operates the system. He did not elaborate.

The David’s Sling interceptor is designed to deal with missiles coming from between 40 kilometers (24.85 miles) to 300 kilometers (186.41 miles) away, making up the middle tier of Israel’s advanced air defense array.

“The success of the series [of tests] constitutes an important milestone in the State of Israel’s operational ability to defend itself against existing and future threats in our arena,” the Defense Ministry said.

The trials were carried out by the ministry’s Israel Missile Defense Organization  in conjunction with the US Missile Defense Agency.

Interception tests of the David’s Sling aerial defense system on March 19, 2019. (Defense Ministry)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the US for the support in a statement.

“Israel continues to be a global pioneer in the development of missile defense systems,” he said.

In July, two David’s Sling interceptor missiles were fired at rockets launched from Syria, in what was the first known operational use of the system, though the rockets were not intercepted.

The Israel Defense Forces defended the deployment of the interceptor missiles at the time, saying its forces had acted correctly given the short amount of time there was to act.

However, the army said that the technical reasons for why the missiles failed to hit their targets could not be published due to security concerns.

Interception tests of the David’s Sling aerial defense system on March 19, 2019. (Defense Ministry)

The system is aimed to protect the country against missiles like the Iranian Fateh 110 and its Syrian equivalent, the M600, both of which have seen extensive use in the Syrian civil war and are known to be in the Hezbollah terrorist group’s arsenal.

Israel also has the Iron Dome system for short range projectiles, and the Arrow 3, which is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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