David’s Sling, also known as Sharvit Haksamim or the Magic Wand in Hebrew, is an Israeli system developed with the United States that is designed to defend against short-range and theater ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets, and cruise missiles.1 David’s Sling is intended to serve as Israel’s middle tier of defense against regional adversaries’ missiles and rockets that are launched at a trajectory that neither the Arrow system nor the Iron Dome can effectively defend against. This includes the inexpensive and mass-produced short-range missiles and rockets that have been launched into Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah since the early 2000s.2 In March 2016, Israel’s Missile Defense Organization claimed that David’s Sling was the “world’s most revolutionary innovation” of missile interceptors and that it “will allow Israel to more effectively defend against the wide range of current and future threats to its civilians.”3
The interceptor for David’s Sling is the Stunner two-stage missile with a hit-to-kill warhead. It travels at Mach 7.5, reaches an altitude of 15km, and has a range of 40 to 300 km.4 Stunner has a front section that has been likened to a dolphin’s nose that allows room for both the interceptor’s radar and infrared homing seeker. Stunner contains a three-pulse motor. The first two accelerate the missile through its initial trajectory while the third activates to maneuver the interceptor and increase speed prior to intercept.5 Each missile costs around $1M.6
Development, Testing, and Fielding of David’s Sling
In 2015, the Israeli Missile Defense Organization of the Directorate of Defense Research and Development and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted a series of successful intercept tests with the David’s Sling system. They were intended to test the capabilities and performance of the system in a realistic, real-time engagement scenario.7 The successful fourth series of tests in late December 2015 was considered the “final milestone” before delivery of the system to the Israeli Air Force in 2016.8
In March 2016, the Israeli Missile Defense Organization and Rafael began deliveries of the David’s Sling system and the first phase of deliveries included major components including the multi-mission radar (MMR), Stunner interceptors, and battle management and weapon control system (BMC). These systems underwent further integration testing by the Israeli Air Force before being declared fully operational.9
On April 2, 2017, Israeli officials declared David’s Sling operational at a ceremony held at Hatzor Air Force Base near Ashdod.
The United States and Israel signed a project agreement to jointly develop the David’s Sling system in August 2008.10 However, the United States has been contributing to this program since FY2006. From 2006 to 2015, it contributed over $840M to the development of David’s Sling, including $110M in FY2012, $137M in FY13, $149M in FY14, and $138M in FY15.11 In FY2016, the Missile Defense Agency requested $37 million for the program.12 However, the signed NDAA for 2016 authorized far more, including provisions authorizing up to $150M “to the Government of Israel to procure the David’s Sling Weapon System” as well as $99.8M for “Israeli Cooperative Programs” relating to David’s Sling.13