Israel Unveils Answer to Hamas and Hezbollah's Deadly Rockets: New Missile Defense System, David's Sling

Air defense chief tells of an arms race between Israel and its enemies. Netanyahu: 'Those who threaten our existence will put their own existence in danger.'

A test of the David’s Sling anti-missile system, also known as Magic Wand. The missile is being fired from a battery.
Spokesperson's Unit/Defense Ministry

Israel unveiled on Sunday its latest addition to its multilevel missile defense system with David's Sling, which is designed to intercept medium-range missiles.

The army announced on Sunday that the system is now fully operational. David's Sling, which was called in the past Magic Wand, is meant to fill a gap in Israel's rocket defense systems between Iron Dome, meant to intercept rockets from short range, and the Arrow system designed to shoot down complex, long-range ballistic threats.

The new system was welcomed into service with a ceremony at the Hatzor airbase in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Chief of Staff Gady Eisenkot.

With the announcement of David's Sling as operational, the Air Force has now consolidated the full complement of missile defense systems that has been in the works for years.

When the commander of the Air Defense Division, Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovitch, was asked whether any of these systems could intercept the Burkan rockets or those that are in the hands of Hamas and have a relatively heavy warhead, he replied that there is an arms race between Israel and hostile organizations.

"In this race, we always want to be ahead of the other side," said Haimovitch. "'David's Sling' gives us another layer, another ability, and I'm convinced that the next system will be more complex - but will also meet a more proficient and qualified defense system."

Netanyahu said at the ceremony that, "This is a celebratory day for all of Israel. We're adding a significant layer to the strength of Israel.

"I place great importance on our abilities to defend the home front, but with all the importance to our defensive capabilities, I repeat that those who seek to harm us will be beaten. Those who threaten our existence will put their own existence in danger."

Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel added that, "the addition of this new ability of significant strategic importance constitutes a new layer in the wall of security around Israel. We must continue to develop our defense capabilities and offense as well with a forward-looking perspective in an unstable future in the Middle East."

The three systems are designed to be complementary, each one providing defense against rockets and missiles of different sizes and with different ranges. The Arrow system’s job is to take out long-range missiles, such as Scud missiles from Syria or Shihab missiles from Iran. Iron Dome intercepts short-range rockets such as Qassams and Katyushas. David’s Sling is designed to intercept medium-range ballistic weapons, especially highly accurate missiles and large rockets such as Hezbollah’s M-600.

However, with Hezbollah expected to fire over 1,000 rockets per day in a future conflict with Israel, military officials have warned that even the three layers of missile defense will not be capable to maintaining a 100 percent success rate.