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US-Israel Missile Defense

The U.S. Congress and successive Presidential administrations have shown strong support for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense projects. U.S.-Israeli missile defense cooperation has been authorized annually and appropriated in the defense authorization and appropriations bills. Missile defense cooperation is generally not considered a form of direct aid, but many U.S. and Israeli observers consider it a vital component of the Israel’s strategic relationship with the United States. Both countries contribute financially to several projects and share technology from co-developed weapons systems.

The U.S. and Israeli militaries also participate together in joint antiaircraft exercises (code named Juniper-Cobra), which generally include U.S. naval ships and ground personnel operating the Aegis, THAAD and Patriot missile shields in coordination with Israel’s Arrow interceptor.

Israeli defense officials confirmed in August 2017 that US-based joint work on the Arrow-3, David’s Sling and Iron Dome programs was transitioning from low-rate initial production, or LRIP, to full-rate production.  At least 50% of each one of these systems is being produced in the United States, with suppliers and subcontractors working across the country in 30 states.  

Over the past several years, U.S.-Israeli missile defense cooperation has evolved to include the co-development of several systems designed to thwart a diverse range of threats, from short-range missiles and rockets fired by non-state actors, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, to mid- and long-range ballistic missiles in Syria’s and Iran’s arsenals:

To read about the Iron Dome, Israel's most famous and largest missile defense system, please click here.  

                           Name: David's Sling

   Developers: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems; Raytheon
   Target: Medium- to long-range rockets (25-185 mile range)
   Missile: Stunner two-stage Interceptor with electro-optical sensor & radar targeting system
   Operational Timetable: Initial Operational Capability expected in 2012
   Budget Allocation: $330 million from US government since 2006


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

Davids Sling

                           Name: Arrow Theatre System

   Developers: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI); Boeing
   Target: Long-range conventional ballistic missiles; high-altitude nuclear warheads (Arrow-3)
   Cost: $3 million per unit
   Budget Allocation: $825 million from US government since 2006; ~$300 million from Israeli government
   Battery Components: Arrow Interceptor; early-warning AESA radar; command & control center; launcher
   Operational Timetable: First deployment (Arrow2)- October 2000; First 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 operation 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 Arrow has a greater accuracy (99% kill rate) and a longer targeting range (missiles of over 600 miles). 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.  

Arrow Missile

                           Name: Patriot

   Developers: Raytheon; Hughes; RCA
   Target: High-Perfomance Aircraft; mid- and long-range tactical ballistic missiles
   Missile: Surface-to-Air Interceptor (SAM)
   Battery Components: Stationary launcher (with 4 missiles); scanning radar; command & control center
   Operational 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 equiped 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.

Patriot Missile

Defense Budget Appropriations for U.S.-Israeli Missile Defense FY2006 - FY2019 Request
($ millions)

Fiscal Year

Arrow II

Arrow III
(High Altitude)

David's Sling
(Short Range)

Iron Dome




- -


- -




- -


- -






- -






- -





$80.092 - - $202.434


$58.966 $84.722 $205.000 $415.115


$66.220 $110.525 $70.000 $305.700


$74.700 $137.500 $194.000 $447.000


$74.707 $149.712 $460.309


$74.407 $137.934 $350.972 $619.814


$89.550 $286.526 $55.000 $487.595


$204.893 $266.511 $62.000 $600.735


2019 (request)

Sources: "MDA Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Outline," Department of Defense;
Yitzhak Benhorin. "US Earmarks $235 Million for Israel's Defense Systems," Ynet, (December 22, 2011);
Malkah Fleisher. "US OKs Unprecedented Amount for Israeli Missile Defense," Jewish Press, (December 23, 2011);
Maariv Noam Amir."Israel, US Hold Covert Trials for David's Sling Interceptor" Jerusalem Post (January 25, 2016);
Jeremy Sharp. "US Foreign Aid to Israel," Congressional Research Service (April 10, 2018);
Barbara Opall-Rome.  US-Israel teams ramp up interceptor builds, Defense News, (August 8, 2017).