Israel gets ready to unveil David's Sling
by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Oct 31, 2011
The Israeli air force is preparing to deploy a new air-defense
system with the biblical name of David's Sling, designed to
intercept medium-range missiles, while the Iron Dome system
deployed earlier battles Palestinian rockets.
A new unit has been formed to man the first David's Sling battery
that will be based in central Israel sometime in 2012.
David's Sling, also known as Magic Wand, has been jointly
developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and U.S. defense
contractor Raytheon to counter missiles and rockets with ranges of
The interceptor, known as Stunner, is a two-stage missile that can
change course in mid-flight and can operate in all weather
It will form part of the multilayered missile defense system
Israel is putting in place to meet the growing threat of a
sustained bombardment, possibly lasting several weeks, by missiles
and rockets of all calibers and ranges, including ballistic
In the worst-case scenario, but one which Israeli military
planners fear is likely, the Jewish state would be hammered by
Iran and Syria as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and other
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Iron Dome, two batteries of which are operational, constitutes the
bottom tier, designed to intercept short-range missiles, rockets
and mortar shells fired by the Iranian-armed Hezbollah into
northern Israel and by the Palestinians in the south.
Iron Dome was also developed by Haifa-based Rafael.
The Arrow system, developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace
Industries, formed the top layers of the defense shield.
Arrow-2, the variant currently deployed, is designed to knock out
ballistic missiles, primarily the Shehab-3b currently deployed by
Iran, and the more advanced solid-fuel Sejjil-2 Tehran is now
Arrow-3, which would be able to intercept ballistic missiles in
space earlier in their trajectory, is currently under development.
According to Israeli media reports, David's Sling would also be
capable of intercepting long-range missiles like the Shehab at
lower altitudes if they evaded the Arrow batteries.
The only system that has so far been engaged in combat is Iron
Dome, which uses two radar units built by Elta Systems, an IAI
subsidiary, to calculate the trajectories of incoming missiles
within moments of launch.
The computer then decides whether they will hit an inhabited area
or not. If they do not, the system ignores them and pursues
missiles that could cause casualties.
Each Iron Dome battery has 20 Tamir interceptors and can cover an
area of up to 60 square miles.
Iron Dome scored its first kills when it made its combat debut in
southern Israel earlier this year
The mobile system downed at least nine 122mm Grad rockets aimed at
the Negev Desert city of Beersheba and the port of Ashkelon over
several days in April, the first ever destroyed in midflight by
counter-missile fire anywhere in the world.
Patriot missiles built by Raytheon Corp. shot down Scud-type
ballistic missiles during the 1990-91 Gulf war. But until Iron
Dome came along there was no way of intercepting short-range
missiles like the Grads and the mortar shells that Hamas use.
In August, the two Iron Dome batteries, one based outside
Beersheba and the other outside Ashkelon, downed 18 rockets fired
at the cities. But some evaded the systems, causing some
casualties and damage.
The military blamed unspecified "technical problems." But the
Defense Ministry has had to admit that, as many in Israel had
expected, Iron Dome is not infallible, particularly if large
numbers of Grads and similar rockets are launched in salvos.
A third battery is being put together to bolster defenses in the
south. But the military acknowledges that it could take 15-20 Iron
Dome batteries to effectively cover the northern and southern
border areas anywhere near effectively.
But Hezbollah and the Palestinians in Gaza are acquiring longer
range weapons that can reach Israel's narrow central region.
This makes Tel Aviv, Israel's main urban conurbation containing
two-thirds of the population, its industrial heartland and many
strategic installations, increasingly vulnerable.
David's Sling is thus needed to provide some defense there, but if
the shooting starts multiple batteries will be needed.
One reason there are still only two Iron Dome batteries deployed
is that the government was slow to acknowledge the need for such
systems and does not have the funds.