Rafael and the Israel Missile Defence Organisation (IMDO) on 25 November performed a successful test of a new long-range rocket interceptor system, David's Sling, just days after the conclusion of its Pillar of Defense operation against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Conducted at a test range in southern Israel, the activity included using a radar developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) subsidiary Elta Systems, while a long-range target rocket was detected using other sensors. A "stunner" interceptor was launched seconds later and destroyed the simulated threat, with sources saying the inert, 4.6m-long weapon achieved a kinetic hit.

 David's Sling test - Israel Defence Force

Israel Defence Force

The defensive missile uses a multi-pulse rocket motor and features a so-called "dolphin head" nose section, which houses a dual-seeker capability. Rafael says the latter can function simultaneously with no interference, even under extremes such as adverse weather conditions and against countermeasures.

Uzi Rubin, former head of the IMDO, says the use of a "hit to kill" interceptor allows the operator to verify the destruction of the threat. "This is a very critical piece of information in the intercept sequence," he notes. The system's radar will be used as the main sensor in future tests.

Stunner - Rafael 


The Stunner missile's dual seekers are housed within a "dolphin head" nose section

Representatives of the US Missile Defense Agency were present during the test. Washington is partially funding the development of the system, while Raytheon is a subcontractor to Rafael.

Also referred to as Magic Wand and designed to intercept rockets with a range of between 38nm (70km) and 135nm, the system represents the second tier of Israel's multi-layered defence infrastructure, which is being put in place to protect its territory against attack using rockets and ballistic missiles.

Sources say the capabilities of David's Sling will increase in the future, for example by also being able to engage cruise missiles, with one source adding: "threats are changing".

Israel's Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 batteries provide protection against ballistic missile attack, while the Rafael/IAI Iron Dome anti-rocket system demonstrated a success rate of almost 90% during the recent eight-day conflict with Hamas. Five of the latter, short-range systems are now in use by the Israeli air force.

Source: Flight International