Israel’s David’s Sling air and missile defense system successfully intercepted a rocket for the first time outside a test, according to recent Israeli media reports.

On May 10 the Times of Israel

said unspecified military sources said the system intercepted a projectile during a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip aimed toward the Tel Aviv area.

A Stunner interceptor lifts off during a test of the David's Sling Weapon System. (Photo courtesy of Israel Ministry of Defense).
A Stunner interceptor lifts off during a test of the David’s Sling Weapon System. (Photo courtesy of Israel Ministry of Defense).

The primary contractor for David’s Sling is Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd, but it is working with Raytheon Technologies [RTX].  The U.S. Defense Department helps fund Israel’s rocket and missile defense programs with $500 million annually under a third 10-year memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israeli governments signed in 2016.

David’s Sling was declared fully operational in 2017. It consists of a multi-pulse two-stage hit-to-kill Raytheon Stunner missile as well as coordination with sensors, a control system, and an active electronically scanned array multi-mission radar for targeting and guidance. It has been tested to intercept high-caliber rockets and short-range ballistic missiles.

According to a 2022 Congressional Research Service Report, David’s Sling is designed to counter long-range rockets and slower flying cruise missiles fired at 25 to 186 mile ranges, particularly those possessed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Each launcher can hold up to 16 missiles. The report noted that since fiscal year 2006, the U.S. has contributed over $2.1 billion to the development of David’s Sling.

The system is described by Israel as the middle tier of its missile defense capabilities, with shorter-range threats intercepted by Iron Dome and the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 systems intercepting longer-range ballistic missiles.

In 2020, Israel and the U.S. completed a set of flight tests, called David’s Sling Test-7 (DST-7), with it intercepting “threat representative” cruise and ballistic missile-type targets. MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill at the time noted that was the seventh series of David’s Sling tests (Defense Daily, Dec. 15, 2020).