Israel, US test missile defense systems against thousands of simulated rockets
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Israel, US test missile defense systems against thousands of simulated rockets

David's Sling, Arrow and more take part in 5-day intercontinental exercise, as Jerusalem and Washington hammer out aid package

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The Arrow 3 missile is launched from Palmachim air base in central Israel on December 10, 2015. (Defense Ministry)
The Arrow 3 missile is launched from Palmachim air base in central Israel on December 10, 2015. (Defense Ministry)

The United States and Israel successfully conducted a large-scale exercise last month, pitting the countries’ missile defense systems against a simulated attack of thousands of rockets fired from Lebanon and Iran, the Defense Ministry announced Wednesday.

Six missile defense systems were tested in the simulation, which was conducted in both the United States and Israel. The Arrow 2, Arrow 3, David’s Sling, Aegis, Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), all of which protect against medium- and long-range rockets, were used in the exercise, the ministry said.

“During the test, scenarios consisting of multiple missile and rocket attacks were simulated against Israel with both United States and Israel successfully employing, engaging and destroying the simulated incoming threats,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The famed Iron Dome system, which protects against short-range missiles, was not tested in this exercise.

“The David’s Sling missile defense system, which was recently delivered to the [Israeli] Air Force, participated in the drill as part of its transition to becoming operational,” the Defense Ministry said.

The David’s Sling system, also known as Magic Wand, completed a final set of major tests in December 2015 and was declared operational. It was delivered to the air force in March, but required additional time for installment and training before it could be fully integrated into the country’s missile defense program.

The Arrow 2, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling were joint Israeli-American weapons development projects, while the THAAD, Patriot and Aegis missiles are American-made systems. This exercise, which concluded on June 22, tested the interoperability of those systems to ensure that they could work together in the event of a missile attack.

The Israeli Missile Defense Organization, the American Missile Defense Agency and the US European Command spearheaded the five-day drill, but the tests themselves were carried out by Elisra, a subsidiary of the Israeli Elbit Systems weapons company.

Israel’s missile defense program and its dependence upon US assistance has been a contentious issue in recent months, as negotiations continue for the defense aid package — known as the memorandum of understanding — that America gives to Israel.

According to a report in The New York Times, the next 10-year deal could top $40 billion, and would include a decade-long pledge to fund Israel’s missile defense systems, an arrangement currently funded separately in yearly installments. It has been subject to much controversy recently as the White House and Congress have disagreed over the size of the annual increase for the missile defense program.

The US has either jointly developed or financed all three of the Israeli programs — the Iron Dome, Arrow (long-range) systems, and David’s Sling (medium-range). They are meant to ensure Israel can counter threats from neighboring Gaza, south Lebanon and Syria, as well as from an Iran that is relentlessly developing its ballistic missile systems.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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