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Israel's Missile Defense Systems

Israel faces a variety of military threats that tests the Israel Defense Forces in its ability to protect civilians from attack. The Jewish State has defended itself no fewer than ten times on the battlefield, each victory reliant on its superiorly trained manpower and qualitative advantage over the enemies.

The proliferation of rockets and ballistic missiles across the Middle East - particularly in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories - has forced Israel to strengthen a new aspect of its defense doctrine – active anti-missile technology. Given Israel’s small size, ballistic missiles represent an existential threat to Israel and it must therefore have an anti­missile defense network that provides protection for the entire population. The philosophy of active missile defense - involving the development of advanced anti-missile systems as well as grouping together air, rocket and missile defense capabilities - underpins Israel’s defense doctrine, also including early-warning, passive defense and counter-strike capabilities.

The missile threat is not confined to one geographical region or to any one type of rocket. Israel, in collaboration with the United States, has created a multi-layered missile defense apparatus in order to combat the threat and this defense system is considered one of the most advanced in the world.

The IDF began use of an upgraded siren warning system for incoming projectiles in August 2017.  Portable warning systems were distributed to areas not covered by existing sirens, and software upgrades to help more specifically pinpoint the areas in danger were implemented as well.

The U.S. government’s most recent spending bill, passed in March 2018, includes a record-high $705 million in funding earmarked for Israel’s missile defense systems.

2018 NDAA Authorized Missile Defense Funding for Israel
(in millions of dollars)

System Title XLII: R&D Title XLI: Procurement Total
Iron Dome -- 92.0 92.0
David's Sling 63.848 120.0 183.848
Arrow II 71.459 -- 71.459
Arrow III 133.139 120.0 253.139
Unspecified  105.354 -- 105.354
Total 373.8 332.0 705.8

Click here to read about the Iron Dome missile defense system

Name: David’s Sling 

Davids Sling

Developers: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems; Raytheon
Target: Medium- to long-range rockets (63-185 mile range)
Missile: Stunner 2-stage Interceptor with electro-optical sensor & radar targeting
Timetable: First Test - Nov. 2012; Second Test Interception – Nov. 2013
Budget:$330 million from US government since 2006

Overview: David’s Sling was developed as a flexible, multipurpose weapon system capable of engaging aircraft, cruise missiles, ballistic and guided missiles. Its Stunner interceptor missile is designed for land-based, maritime and airborne applications and is fitted with a dual-band imaging infrared and radio-frequency seeker, as well as a multi-pulse rocket motor enabling all-weather operation. David’s Sling was designed to target incoming missiles during their terminal phase, unlike the Iron Dome which intercepts missiles at their highest trajectory. Its primary role will be to intercept medium- and long-range ballistic and guided rockets, such as the Iranian Fajr-5 and BM-25 as well as the Syrian M-600 and Yakhont supersonic cruise missile. It will bridge the Iron Dome (short range interceptor) with the Arrow Theatre (long range interceptor). The use of US parts in Israeli Missile Defense Systems is contingent on being provided a veto over the export of the missile systems. In May 2014 the United States used this veto to prevent the Israeli military from selling the David Sling to Poland. The US spending bill for FY 2015 provides $3.7 billion in military aid to Israel, including $268 million designated for David’s Sling and the Arrow defense systems. In December 2014 Ari Sacher, of Rafael’s Air Superiority Systems Division stated in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that the new projectiles that they are testing for the David’s Sling system will be able to intercept projectiles from well beyond Israel’s borders. Sacher said that the missile system “has an interception range which ensures intercept before a threat enters Israeli territory.”

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the IDF carried out a successful test of the David’s Sling system in April 2015, stating that “Next year it’s going to be operational.” Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon held a press conference with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner during which he praised the work of the engineers and individuals involved and called the successful test a “major milestone.”

Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency completed the last phase of trials for the David’s Sling system on December 21, 2015. Agency leaders said David’s Sling performed up to standards in a number of tests, calling the system “efficient, fast, and deadly.” The David’s Sling system is capable of destroying heavy long-range rockets, short-range ballistic missiles and mortars, and enemy aircraft. This was the fourth and final test of the system.

The Israeli Air Force began to take delivery of the David’s Sling missile system in early March 2016. Delivery of the system will be a gradual and phased process according to the Defense Ministry, with phase one including delivery of the system’s multimission radar, Stunner interceptor missiles, and battle management center.

The David’s Sling system was announced as fully operational on April 2, 2017, in a ceremony at the Hatzor Air Force Base near Ashdod attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and other top Israeli brass.

David’s Sling was deployed for the first time on July 24, 2018, when two missiles from the Syrian civil war entered Israeli airspace. Two David’s Sling interceptors were fired at the Syrian missiles, but they did not successfully destroy the targets. The missiles landed in Israel and no injuries or damage were reported.

David’s Sling missiles cost about $1 million each, compared to Iron Dome missiles which run closer to $70,000.

Arrow Missile

Name: Arrow Theatre System 

Developers: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI); Boeing
Target: Long-range ballistic missiles; high-altitude nuclear warheads (Arrow-3)
Cost: $3 million per unit
Budget: $825 million from U.S., ~$300 million from Israeli government
Components: Interceptor; early-warning radar; command & control center; launcher
Firsts: Deployment (Arrow2)-October 2000; Test (Arrow3) – January 2012

Overview: The Arrow is designed to give Israel a full theatre ballistic missile defense capability.  The original versions (Arrow-1 & -2) were initially greenlit in 1988 and became operational in 2000 to protect against long-range conventional missiles. In August 2008, the US and Israel began production of the Arrow-3 which is comprised of an exoatmospheric interceptor and proportional navigation to directly target an incoming missile outside of the earth’s atmosphere, thereby preventing collateral damage from impact with a nuclear warhead. The first successful test of the updated Arrow-3 system took place on February 19, 2018, after two unsuccessful tests due to bad weather conditions. Further tests of the system are planned on the Alaskan island of Kodiak, where the Israeli military and their American counterparts can test the system more realistically.  

Patriot Missile

Name: Patriot

Developers: Raytheon; Hughes; RCA
Target: High-Perfomance Aircraft; mid- and long-range tactical ballistic missiles
Missile: Surface-to-Air Interceptor (SAM)
Components: Stationary launcher (4 missiles); radar; command & control center
Timetable:First deployment (US) – 1984; First Activity (Israel) – 1991

Overview: The Patriot missile system was first used in Israel during the Gulf War when Saddam Hussein fired Scud missiles at Israel and it had a 40% claimed success rate in shooting down incoming missiles. The Israeli government, however, with dissatisfied with the performance and has worked to update the system and will now be phasing it out for the David’s Sling. The upgraded versions, PAC-2 and -3, provide a more reliable and lethal capability to defeat advanced threats – including aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs – in almost all operational combat environments. The newest Israeli version is set to replace the four-missile stationary launcher with a 16-missile launcher, which will make it better equipped to contend with a prolonged barrage of missiles. In 2006, Israel stationed a Patriot battery in Haifa to protect from Hezbollah rockets. Another was placed in the north during 2012. In August 2013, the Israeli Air Force planned to place a Patriot battery in the Galilee to protect from threats out of Syria. Israel purchased four Patriot missile batteries from Germany in May 2015.

Name: Barak-8

Developers: Israel Aerospace industries 
Target: Aerial platforms and munitions including aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aircraft and sea-skimming missiles
Components:  Phased-array multi-mission radar, two-way data link, and command and control system
Timetable: Deployed

Israel has a system to protect against cruise missiles like the ones used by Iran to attack oil installations in Saudi Arabia. The Barak-8ER system developed by Israel Aerospace industries (IAI), has enhanced anti-tactical ballistic missile capabilities that allow it to kill many types of missiles and has a high immunity to electronic countermeasures. The Barak-8 interceptor is part of the Barak MX System. The interceptors boast vertical launch capabilities supporting 360-degree coverage, quick reactions, short minimal ranges and an active high-end RF seeker for targets with low radar cross sections (RCS) and high maneuverability. The regular ship-based Barak-8 has an effective range of roughly 50 miles. The ER version, with its add-on booster, has the range of nearly 100 miles.

Sources: IDF Spokesperson;
Raytheon Company;
Wikipedia (Patriot, Arrow, David's Sling, Iron Dome);
Department of Defense;
CRS Report;
Space Daily;
Missile Monitor;
Defense Industry Daily;
CIA Proliferation Report;
Gill Cohen, “Defense Minister Ya’alon: Israel recieved 4 Patriot missile batteries from Germany,” Haaretz(May 10, 2015);
Barbara Opall-Rome, “US, Israel Start Delivering David’s Sling System to Israel Air Force,” DefenseNews, (March 2, 2016);
Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, “US House okays funding boost for Israel’s missile defense,” Times of Israel (June 17, 2016);
Anna Aronheim, “David’s Sling comes online as latest component to Israel’s air defense shield,”Jerusalem Post, (April 2, 2017);
Shoshana Solomon, IDF upgrades siren system to pinpoint incoming rocket alerts, Times of Israel, (August 3, 2017);
Anna Aronheim, Israel Successfully Carries out Arrow 3 Test, Jerusalem Post, (February 19, 2018);
Israel thanks US for ‘record-breaking’ missile defense aid, ABC News, (March 26, 2018);
Arie Egozi, “Israel Boasts New Operational Cruise Missile Defense,” Breaking Defense, (October 24, 2019).