Once shrouded in secrecy, Israel's David's Sling missile interceptor went on display for the first time this week at the Paris Air Show. Its co-manufacturers, Rafael, say the system is designed to compliment the Iron Dome defensive shield used in theGaza conflict, and will be operational within two years
ISRAEL (ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTRY) - The manufacturers of a new Israeli air shield which can intercept rockets more powerful than those thwarted by Iron Dome in the Gaza conflict showed off the long-range missiles to the media at this week's Paris Air Show.
Also known as Magic Wand or Stunner, David's Sling is being made by Israel's state-owned Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd and U.S. firm Raytheon. Until now the system has remained a tightly-guarded secret, with only a 46 second video released last November showing its first field test.
But at the week-long air show, the world's oldest and largest, Rafael's developers were happy to show off one of the David's Sling interceptor missiles.
Standing in front of the Stunner, Rafael's business development and marketing director, Yossi Horowtiz, listed its components. "First of all there is no battery, the battery definition is not relevant for David's Sling. We are talking about a unit, so there is a sensor, radars, it can be one, two or more, commandered control, and launchers. Every launcher has about 12 interceptors," said Horowitz.
The interceptor is a two-stage missile, with two targeting and guidance systems installed in its nose-tip (a radar and an electro-optical sensor).
David's Sling is designed to intercept medium and long-range rockets, and is part of a three-tier system. It will be used in conjunction with the Iron Dome system, which is designed to intercept short-range rockets of between 4 and 70 kilometres, tackling the guerrilla rockets of Gaza and Hezbollah, while the Arrow missile is designed to intercept ballistic missiles. Both are already in use and Horowutz says the Stunner will follow within one to two years.
"The mission of David's Sling is to be higher tier of the Iron Dome and to defeat all the threats that are coming, that are flying inside the atmosphere, which means threats that are penetrating the atmosphere or flhying inside the atmosphere, like medium range tactical ballistic missiles, long range tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or long range air defence," said Rafael.
"Iron Dome is point defence. It can protect a mid-sized city in Israel at some level of altitude, but David's Sling defeats all the threats up to very high altitude, very high altitiude, very long range, we are talking about more than 160 kilometre range. It's totally different. The footprint that Iron Dome protected, (I mean) that David's Sling protected, is huge. Huge," he said.
In November the Israeli Defence Ministry released video showing a successful test-launch of the Stunner, billed as Israel's answer to the longer-range missiles of Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Syria. Officials said that the system shot down a target rocket in a secret November 20 desert trial.
Worried about deteriorating security on the fronts with Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, and the international showdown over the disputed nuclear programme of arch-foe Iran, Israel has been accelerating work on its multi-tier missile shield, with extensive help from the United States.
The top-most tier is Israel's Arrow ballistic interceptor, designed to shoot down long-range Iranian and Syrian missiles at atmospheric altitudes - high enough so that any non-conventional warheads they might carry would be safely destroyed.
David's Sling would serve as a bridge between Iron Dome and Arrow, Israeli officials say, blocking out rockets that prove too fast and powerful for Iron Dome, or any ballistic missiles that are missed by Arrow.