Israelis and Americans in a heavily fortified control room in a military range in southern Israel jumped for joy and expressed their feelings very loudly. All this happened yesterday morning, seconds after two metal objects collided in the sky above the desert and filled the air with burning pieces of metal.
The radar and the fast cameras did not leave any doubt: the “Stunner” interceptor hit the incoming rocket and turned it into thousands of metal pieces.
Yesterday, Rafael and the Israeli missile defence organization performed a second successful test of the “David’s Sling” long-range rocket interceptor system. Officials from the US missile defence agency were also present. Raytheon is a subcontrator in the programme.
During the test the Elta radar was fully operated. It detected the target rocket and initiated the “kill sequence”. The target was destroyed by the Stunner interceptor in a kinetic hit.
The “hit-to-kill” interceptor allows verification of the destruction of the threat, to avoid using a second interceptor.
David’s Sling will be part of the multilayered defence system Israel is building to defend itself from rockets and missiles. The first layer is the “Iron Dome”, which is also developed by Rafael. This system is designed to intercept short-range rockets.
David’s Sling will be the second layer, with Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 the third layer against ballistic missiles. David’s Sling is designed to intercept rockets with a range of 70-250km (38-135nm), but this capability will increase. The system is also designed to intercept cruise missiles.
The cruise missiles intercept capability has been designed as “threats are changing”, according to Israeli sources.
Rafael sources explained that the “dolphin head” shape of the David’s Sling nose allows the two seekers to function simultaneously with no interference, even in “extreme conditions”. The sources said that the dual-seeker ensures high sensitivity in all weathers and immunity to deception and countermeasures.
The 4.6m (15ft) long Stunner uses a multipulse rocket motor.
Pini Yungman, director of Rafael’s air defence directorate, could not hide his excitement, even hours after the successful test.
“This is a major breakthrough in any international standard. This is the only system that can cope with these threats and with future ones,” he said
Yungman explained that the kinetic kill mode was selected to be able to destroy the target by hitting specific parts. “This cannot be achieved by proximity-activated warheads,” he said.
He revealed that series production of David’s Sling began after Rafael received a contract from the ministry of defence.
“If the situation requires, we will deploy a system even before it is declared fully operational.”
Yungman was very careful when asked about the system’s capabilities. It will be capable of intercepting any aerial target from ground level to the threshold of the atmosphere in a robust way, he said.
He again took care not to cross the security limits and said: “We made history today with a next generation system.”
Judging by the Iron Dome performance, I think that his words reflected the real breakthrough. Iron Dome was developed by Rafael in less than three years, and achieved an 85% kill rate of short-range rockets.