Israel signs landmark deal to sell David’s Sling air defense system to Finland

Agreement is the first international sale of the system, which has been used alongside other defenses in Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas

Interception tests of the David's Sling Aerial Defense System on March 19, 2019. (Defense Ministry)
Interception tests of the David's Sling Aerial Defense System on March 19, 2019. (Defense Ministry)

Israel’s Defense Ministry signed an agreement for the sale of the David’s Sling air defense system to Finland on Sunday, in a first-of-its-kind deal estimated at 317 million euros (NIS 1.3 billion).

The deal was hailed by Director General Eyal Zamir as a “historic agreement” and was signed at an event attended by Finland’s Ambassador to Israel Nina Nordström and Finnish Defense Attaché to Israel Col. Oula Asteljoki.

The president and CEO of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Yoav Har-Even; head of the ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research & Development, Dr. Daniel Gold; head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, Moshe Patel, and other officials attended the signing at the Defense Ministry’s headquarters.

“David’s Sling is one of the most advanced systems in the world for intercepting ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and drones,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement following the event. “The David’s Sling system has demonstrated very high-performance capabilities in war, in a variety of challenging scenarios.”

David’s Sling, produced by Rafael, is capable of intercepting rockets and missiles with a range of 40-300 kilometers (25-185 miles).

David’s Sling has been operational in Israel since 2017 and makes up the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layer missile defense capabilities, which also include the short-range Iron Dome and a top level of Arrow systems, which are intended to engage long-range ballistic missiles.

Defense Minister Director General Eyal Zamir (center left) and Finland’s Ambassador to Israel, Nina Nordström (center right), and other officials are seen after signing the sale of the David’s Sling air defense system to Finland, November 12, 2023. (Defense Ministry)

Although the system has been operational for some six years, it only made its first real-world interception in May of this year, when it shot down a rocket fired at Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip. Another rocket fired at Jerusalem from Gaza was downed by David’s Sling in May.

Since then, the defense system has been used a single time in Israel’s ongoing war against the Hamas terror group, taking down a long-range missile launched from Gaza at northern Israel. The war began when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed the border on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking at least 240 hostages.

According to the IDF, all the defense systems — David’s Sling, Iron Dome, Patriot and Arrow — intercepted a total of some 2,000 incoming projectiles between October 7 and November 9.

The David’s Sling missile defense battery, which represents the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layered anti-missile capabilities. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Finland announced its intention to purchase the defense system in April of this year, one day after the country joined the NATO military alliance.

“The David’s Sling system will extend the operational range of Finland’s ground-based air defense capabilities significantly,” Finland’s defense minister Antti Kaikkonen said at the time. “This acquisition will create a new capability for the Finnish Defence Forces to intercept targets at high altitude. ”

Although the deal with Finland marks the first foreign sale of the defense system, Ukraine has requested access to it several times throughout its ongoing war against Russia, although Israel has declined to make the sale.

In February of this year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Munich Security Conference with a request for Israel to provide military assistance, saying, “We have no alternative but to defeat the Russian Goliath. Being David is fighting and we are fighting. Being David is having a sling to win.

“We do not have yet the David’s Sling from Israel, but I believe it is just temporary.”

Most Popular
read more: