David’s Sling (Hebrew designation: Magic Wand) is an Israeli air and missile defense system designed to defeat short-range ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets, and cruise missiles.1 Co-developed with the United States, David’s Sling occupies a middle tier in its missile defense architecture, between the point-defense Iron Dome and upper-tier Arrow systems. 2
The David’s Sling Weapon System (DSWS) incorporates a vertical missile firing unit, an ELM-2084 fire control radar, a battle management/operator station, and the Stunner interceptor. The middle tier in Israel’s missile defenses, DSWS is designed to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles at ranges of 40 to 300 km.
The interceptor for DSWS, the Stunner, is a two-stage, 4.6 m-long missile capable of intercepting targets at altitudes of up to 15 km and ranges between 40 and 300 km.3 It uses a three-pulse solid propellant motor to reach speeds of up to Mach 7.5; its first two pulses accelerate the missile through its initial trajectory while the third activates to maneuver the interceptor and increase speed prior to intercept.4
Unlike Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptor, Stunner has no warhead, defeating targets by striking them directly. The missile’s asymmetric, “dolphin-shaped” nose features two sensors for terminal guidance: a combined electro-optical/imaging infrared (EO/IR) sensor and a radar seeker for all-weather performance.5 For midcourse guidance, the missile receives updates from the system’s ground-based radar via an onboard datalink. Each Stunner missile costs an estimated $1 million to produce.6
Firing unit and radar
The DSWS firing unit is a trailer-mounted vertical launch system for the Stunner missile. Each firing unit can hold up to 12 missiles; all firing units—and parts of the Stunner interceptor—are manufactured in the United States.7
The system’s multimission radar, the ELM-2084, is an active electronically steered array (AESA) operating in the S-band frequency. The ELM-2084 can operate both as an air surveillance or fire control radar. In surveillance mode, it can track up to 1100 targets at a range of 474 km, and can electronically scan a 120-degree azimuth and 50 degree elevation. To provide 360-degree surveillance, the ELM-2084 can rotate its antenna array at 30 rotations per minute. In its fire control mode, it can track up to 200 targets a minute at ranges of 100 km. This mode is used to guide Stunner interceptors until their onboard seekers can detect the target.8
David’s Sling development
Israel began developing David’s Sling in 2006, and in August 2008, signed an agreement with the United States to co-develop the system. From fiscal 2006 to 2020, the United States has supplied $1.99 billion in aid to support David’s Sling development and procurement.9 In October 2009, David’s Sling’s prime contractor, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, awarded over $100 million to U.S. contractor Raytheon Missiles and Defense to develop the Stunner interceptor and its vertical launcher.10 Rafael first publicly displayed the system at the Paris Air Show in 2013.11 50 percent of David’s Sling components are built in the United States.12
In 2012, the Israeli Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) and the United States’ Missile Defense Agency (MDA) began developmental testing of the DSWS. On November 20, 2012, it conducted its first successful flight test of the system in southern Israel.13 A second test, also successful, took place on November 20, 2013. The system underwent a third flight test in April 2015 and its fourth test in December 2015; both were successful, intercepting “multiple threat representative targets…in realistic, real-time engagements.”14
|November 20, 2012||DST-1||Success|
|November 20, 2013||DST-2||Success||SRBM target|
|April 1, 2015||DST-3||Success|
|December 21, 2015||DST-4||Success||“Final milestone” test|
|January 25, 2017||DST-5||Success|
|March 18, 2019||DST-6||Success|
The Israeli Air Force took delivery of its first David’s Sling units in 2016.15 Following its delivery, Israel successfully conducted a fifth test of the system on January 25, 2017, which was successful.16 Israel formally inducted the David’s Sling system into service in March 2017.17
On July 23, 2018, Israel first used the system in combat, engaging two Syrian OTR-21 Tochka (SS-21) short-range ballistic missiles with two interceptors. After Israeli forces assessed a change in the incoming missiles’ trajectory, they commanded the Stunner interceptors to self-destruct; one exploded over the Golan Heights and the other landed in southern Syria. Both Tochka missiles fell short within Syrian territory.18
On March 18, 2019, the IMDO and MDA conducted a sixth test of the DSWS, successfully intercepting an unspecified target.19
- Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” Congressional Research Service, June 10, 2015, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf, 10-11 & Missile Defense Agency, “IMDO and MDA Successfully Complete First Arrow-3 Ballistic Missile Defense Engagement,” December 10, 2015, https://www.mda.mil/news/15news0010.html.
- “IMDO and MDA Successfully Conduct the David’s Sling Weapon System Test Three (DST-3) Series of Tests Intercepting Targets while Meeting all Test Objectives,” Missile Defense Agency, April 1, 2015, https://www.mda.mil/news/15news0005.html.
- Arie Egozi, “Israel intercepts target rocket with David’s Sling System,” FlightGlobal, November 29, 2019, https://www.flightglobal.com/israel-intercepts-target-rocket-with-davids-sling-system/108041.article.
- David Eshel, “David’s Sling Makes Direct Hit In Intercept Test,” Aviation Week, January 28, 2013, http://aviationweek.com/awin/david-s-sling-makes-direct-hit-intercept-test; “David’s Sling (Stunner),” Quantitative Military Edge, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, https://militaryedge.org/armaments/davids-sling-stunner/.
- Arie Egozi, “Rafael eyes ‘dolphin head’ nose design for air-to-air missiles,” FlightGlobal, September 29, 2011, https://www.flightglobal.com/rafael-eyes-dolphin-head-nose-design-for-air-to-air-missiles/102269.article; Amir Rapaport, “How to Produce a Dolphin-Shaped Missile Head, Israel Defense, April 17, 2014, https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/how-produce-dolphin-shaped-missile-head.
- Amos Harel, “Israel’s David’s Sling Missile: Promising, but No Magic Wand,” Haaretz, November 20, 2013, https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-david-s-sling-no-magic-wand-1.5292662.
- “David’s Sling System and SkyCeptor Missile,” Raytheon Missiles & Defense, n.d., https://www.raytheonmissilesanddefense.com/capabilities/products/davidssling.
- Multi-Mission Radar Family: ELM-2084 MMR, (Ashdod, Israel: IAI Elta Systems, June 2014), archived, https://web.archive.org/web/20170617203654/http://www.iai.co.il/Sip_Storage//FILES/0/41420.pdf.
- Jeremy M. Sharp, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, RL33222, (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, November 16, 2020), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf.
- “Raytheon Awarded More than $100 Million for New Missile Defense System,” PRNewswire, October 26, 2009, https://raytheon.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=1423.
- Reuters, “David’s Sling missile system unveiled in Paris,” YouTube video, 1:57, June 20, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGRRfJ2Q_GY.
- Barbara Opall-Rome, “US-Israel teams ramp up interceptor builds,” Defense News, August 8, 2017, https://www.defensenews.com/smr/2017/08/03/us-israel-teams-ramp-up-interceptor-builds/.
- “David’s Sling success caught on film,” Times of Israel, November 27, 2012, https://www.timesofisrael.com/first-successful-davids-sling-interception-caught-on-film/.
- Barbara Opall-Rome, “David’s Sling System Shows Ability To Destroy Rockets, Missiles,” Defense News, December 21, 2015, https://www.defensenews.com/2015/12/21/davids-sling-system-shows-ability-to-destroy-rockets-missiles/; “IMDO and MDA Successfully Complete Series of David’s Sling Weapon System Intercept Tests,” Missile Defense Agency, December 21, 2015, http://www.mda.mil/news/15news0012.html.
- Missile Defense Agency, “IMDO and MDA Successfully Complete Series of David’s Sling Weapon System Intercept Tests” & Missile Defense Agency, “IMDO and MDA Successfully Conduct the David’s Sling Weapon System Test Three (DST-3) Series of Tests Intercepting Targets while Meeting all Test Objectives.”
- Gili Cohen, “Israel Successfully Tests Magic Wand Anti-missile System,” Haaretz, January 25, 2017, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-successfully-tests-magic-wand-anti-missile-system-1.5490632.
- Anna Ahronheim, “Netanyahu: David’s Sling missile to become operational Sunday,” The Jerusalem Post, April 2, 2017, https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Netanyahu-Davids-Sling-missile-interceptor-to-become-operational-Sunday-485852.
- Seth J. Frantzman, “Israel activated its David’s Sling missile system for the first time. Will more sales start booming?” Defense News, July 31, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/smr/space-missile-defense/2018/07/27/davids-sling-missile-system-used-for-first-time-by-israel/; “Second David’s Sling missile fell in Syria without hitting target,” The Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2018, https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Second-Davids-Sling-missile-fell-in-Syria-without-hitting-target-563338.
- “IMDO and MDA Successfully Complete David’s Sling Weapon System Intercept Test Series,” news release, Missile Defense Agency, March 19, 2019, https://www.mda.mil/news/19news0002.html.