Two weeks after Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah alarmed Haifa Bay residents by threatening a missile attack against the ammonia container there, Israel is unveiling one of its answers to the Lebanese terrorist organization arsenal: the beginning of delivery in recent days of the first components of David's Sling, the defense system against accurate heavy rockets and missiles, to the air force air defense system.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. developed David's Sling in cooperation with US company Raytheon. The system is slated to become operational within a few weeks, providing Israel with another defensive layer against medium and long-range missiles that the existing defense systems, such as Arrow 2 and Iron Dome, are incapable of handling. The initial deployment of David's Sling is unrelated to Nasrallah's new-old threat: the Homa Administration (also known as the Israel Missile Organization) in the Ministry of Defense Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure and the US Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency (MDA) are cooperating in this matter, subject to a well-ordered and tough work plan. Far more than the psychological warfare being conducted by Hezbollah, progress in the David's Sling program is a result of a series of successful trials.
The first components of David's Sling now being delivered to the IDF include the interception, command and control, and radar systems. Mass production of the Stunner missile interceptor, which will destroy the enemy missiles in flight, has already begun in tandem with its development. The cost of one Stunner is estimated at $1 million.
Like the Iron Dome system, the David's Sling system will also be capable of managing a "combat economy," meaning that when the attacking missiles is detected in flight, the missile or rocket threat can be classified and its projected landing area calculated. If it is headed for open space, it is possible that no effort will be made to intercept it in order to save money.
Hezbollah's arsenal is believed to contain 100,000 heavy rockets and missiles. A large part of it was built in recent years while Syria was experiencing war and chaos. The Syrian army munitions warehouses were wide open, and convoys carrying missiles and rockets made their way on the Beirut-Damascus road in order to reinforce the Shi'ite terrorist organization's firepower. While some of these convoys were attacked from time to time, it is likely that others reached their destination in safety.
The main task of the David's Sling system is dealing with the highly accurate and maneuverable heavy rockets possessed by Hezbollah. These can be used in an attempt to hit sensitive infrastructure in Israel, governmental symbols, critical IDF bases, and perhaps also to carry out the threat to strike the ammonia tanker in Haifa Bay. A senior defense source said that in such situations, when self-guided maneuverable rockets are fired accurately against the target, in addition to low-flying cruise missiles and perhaps also unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), David's Sling will be able to supply impressive results.
The work plan of the Homa Administration and MDA includes another test of David's Sling this year. This test may be conducted after the system is already operational, but it is designed to assess new and even further improved capabilities.
In addition to this test, more tests involving improvements in the Arrow 2 missiles defense system and the new defense missile to be included in it - the Arrow 3 - will be conducted over the coming year. Arrow 2 missiles have been operational since 2000 and are undergoing upgrades, revisions, and adaption to new threats in the region from time to time.
The Arrow 3 missile is designed to be another arrow in the quiver of the existing system of the older Arrow 2 missiles. They are designed to operate at enormous distances from Israel's borders, and to intercept ballistic missiles when they are still in outer space, including those bearing non-conventional warheads. If one of these misses the attacking missile, another Arrow 3 missile can be fired against it. Even if the second missile also misses, the air force air defense system can still launch an Arrow 2 missile against it. If that also misses, the David's Sling Stunner missile may do the job. That is exactly the idea: a multi-layer missile defense system in which all the sub-systems speak a common language. The air force is already busy devising a theory for operating this system and determining how it should be used under various scenarios: what to launch against each threat, and when, in order to ensure an optimal defense.
While development of the Arrow 3 is in the final stages, the defense establishment is wasting no time: mass production of the missile has already begun at an Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) facility.
Parts of the missile are being manufactured in the US by Boeing, a key partner in the project, and other US companies, and are being sent to Israel for assembly. This arrangement is good for the US, and quite comfortable for Israel, which is receiving $270 million a year from the US administration to pay for the development and production of the Arrow 3 and David's Sling systems. This year, this budget may be even larger. A senior Ministry of Defense source said, "The operational maturity of the Arrow 3 is also just around the corner."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 2, 2016
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