Israel's defense companies register remarkable victory

Irael's defense industries Illustration Tali Bogdanovsky credit: IDF Spokesperson Ministry of Defense
Irael's defense industries Illustration Tali Bogdanovsky credit: IDF Spokesperson Ministry of Defense

With 99% of the missiles and drones fired by Iran and its proxies intercepted, "Globes" looks at the companies, which with US cooperation, developed Israel's air defense systems.

The Iranian parliament was quick on Sunday morning to celebrate the missile and drone attack on Israel with chants of "Death to Israel!" But the facts speak for themselves: 99% of the 110 ballistic missiles, 36 cruise missiles and 185 drones that were launched by the Iranians, militias in Iraq and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, were intercepted before they reached their targets.

This was an unprecedented achievement worldwide. In the Russia-Ukraine war for example, in which Moscow operates Iranian drones that are similar to those used against Israel (Shahed 136), Kyiv celebrated an impressive interception of 40 drones. But this does not come close to the attack on Israel by Iran and his proxies, both in terms of quantity and in terms of the number of arenas.

The complex interception operation involved the air defense forces of the US, the UK, France, and Jordan. The bulk of the interceptions were carried out by Israel's multi-layered air defense system, which includes the Arrow 3 to intercept ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, Arrow 2 to intercept ballistic missiles within the atmosphere, David's Sling to intercept advanced short-and medium-range threats, and Iron Dome for short-range threats.

The upper layer of the defense system

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Arrow 3 and Arrow 2 played a central role in dealing with the Iranian missile attack. The Arrow 2 system's warhead carries a mobile explosive device to destroy the target missile. The Arrow 3 however, uses kinetic energy to destroy the target. The interceptor itself has very high maneuverability to change direction, and advanced electro-optical sensors.

The command and control systems and the management of the Golden Citron and Golden Almond interceptors, developed by Elbit Systems Elisra unit, constitute the "brain and heart" of the Arrow 3, Arerow 2 and David's Sling systems. These systems carry out complex control and control processes, control the sensors of the systems such as radars and other means, and direct interceptors to the range of targets and threats.

Government-owned defense company Tomer, which is rarely in the spotlight, develops and manufactures the Arrow missile's engines. With the sale of the Arrow 3 system to Germany last August, the company began expanding infrastructure and dedicated production lines to support deliveries to Berlin, while increasing production to meet Israel's defense challenges.

On a few occasions, each of the Arrow systems has already proven itself against threats from the Houthi rebels. The significant challenge of ballistic missiles in general, and of Iranians in particular, does not lie in the volume of the large explosive they carry (about 500 kilograms), but rather in speed. A medium and long range ballistic missile reaches a speed of Mach 5 (1,500 meters per second) and more and at peak velocity speeds of about 5,000-6,000 meters per second.

The uniqueness of Arrow systems is that they are 'hit to kill,' in other words, they hit the missile head-on metal to metal. However, when it comes to such high speeds the task is not simple. The aim of Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 is to intercept the target as far away from Israel as possible. This is probably the reason why few missile fragments were found in Israel.

IAI CEO Boaz Levy, one of the people most familiar with the Arrow systems, tells "Globes" about his feelings following the Iranian attack. "30 years of developing excellence, preparation, production, training and integration came into expression in one night. We came to the event prepared, having worked in close cooperation with the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) and the Air Force. We salute the Air Force for its performance."

During the 30 minute barrage of ballistic missiles on an unprecedented historic scale, the Arrow systems proved themselves as none of their global counterparts have succeeded to date. Considering the results of the attack and the sale of the Arrow 3 system to Germany for NIS 14 billion, it is likely that global interest in these systems will soar.

The Arrow system project is led by IAI, based on collaborations with the IMDO, which is responsible for the development and production of the multi-layer defense measures at MAFAT's DDR&D (Directorate of Defense Research & Development), and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Levy recounts, "I remember many years ago how the Americans defined the target as 'Is it possible for a ball to hit a ball? The planners then said it was impossible because these are bullets that move at tremendous speeds, but what we did on Saturday is exactly that. We hit a long-range ballistic missile at tremendous speed, and in a scenario that includes many missiles."

Israel-US defense industries collaboration

In the layer below the Arrow systems is the David's Sling system. The first operational interception by this system was against a rocket launched by Islamic Jihad during Operation Shield and Arrow in May 2023. Today, less than a year later, the system is an integral part of the overall defense array.

David's Sling is led by Rafael together with US company Raytheon, and is another fruit of the close cooperation between MAFAT's DDR&D and the US MDA. The system is designed to intercept short and medium-range threats, including ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and drones, at a range of up to 300 kilometers

The system includes cooperation that illustrates the strength of Israel's defense industries combined. David's Sling, like all the IDF defense layers, includes radar manufactured by IAI unit ELTA. At the same time, the command and control system of David's Sling is also the Golden Almond produced by Elbit's Elisra. In August 2023, Rafael signed a deal to sell a David's Sling system to Finland for NIS 1.3 billion.

The lower layer in Israel's multi-layered air defense system is Iron Dome manufactured by Rafael. The system proved itself not only during the unprecedented rocket attack on October 7, but also throughout the war. In the first month of the war alone, about 9,500 rockets were launched into Israel - more than double than during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 or the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Recently, a complementary Rafael system called Dome-C was added to the air defense system so that the Israel Navy can handle threats at sea. Last week this system conducted its first operational interception in the Gulf of Eilat, of a drone launched by the pro-Iranian militias from Iraq.

Dome-C is deployed on Israel Navy Saar 6 corvettes to protect the country's economic waters from a range of advanced threats including rockets, drones and cruise missiles. Like Iron Dome it neutralizes threats by exploding near the missile.

While Israel's defense system has shifted to a more technological approach and less traditional land forces, the investment in air defense has been constant. A fundamental reason for this is the cooperation between the Israel's Ministry of Defense and the US MDA.

This cooperation with the US led to a memorandum of understanding for the current American aid agreement (valid between 2019-2028), by which Israel receives $3.3 billion in aid annually and also, for the first time, $500 million annually for the development of joint projects in the field of air defense. This enables continued joint innovation on air defense systems.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on April 15, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Irael's defense industries Illustration Tali Bogdanovsky credit: IDF Spokesperson Ministry of Defense
Irael's defense industries Illustration Tali Bogdanovsky credit: IDF Spokesperson Ministry of Defense
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