Hamas is testing the layers of Israel’s sophisticated air-defense network. Here’s how it fends off threats. – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Hamas is testing the layers of Israel’s sophisticated air-defense network. Here’s how it fends off threats.

This photograph provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense on Monday Dec. 21, 2015 shows a launch of David’s Sling missile defense system.

Ministry of Defense via AP

Israel confirmed using its David’s Sling air-defense system to intercept a Hamas rocket on Friday.
David’s Sling is the middle part of Israel’s sophisticated and multi-layer air-defense network.
That network also includes Iron Dome for short-range threats and Arrow systems for longer ranges.

Israel on Friday was forced to activate its David’s Sling medium-range air-defense system, marking the first time since it declared war on Hamas last weekend that the country has turned to aerial protection beyond the Iron Dome. 

Hamas launched at least one Ayyash 250 rocket — a two-year-old weapon believed to be the longest-range rocket that the militant group has with an operational range of 155 miles  — at Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to local media reports. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) top spokesperson, later confirmed that David’s Sling was activated to intercept the rocket.

David’s Sling is the middle layer of Israel’s sophisticated air-defense network and is complemented by the Iron Dome and the Arrow systems, for smaller and larger threats, respectively. Together, these protect Israel and its nearly 9,000 square miles of territory from artillery, drones, rockets, and missiles of all sorts.

According to Israel’s foreign ministry, many of the initiatives that fall under the country’s Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) operate in close collaboration with the US and receive joint funding. The three aforementioned weapons systems, for example, were developed as a result of cooperation between the two countries. 

“The great relationship between these two organizations also translates into the cooperation between  Israeli and American defense industries, which serve as key contributors to the development and production processes of the defense array,” Israel’s foreign ministry says in a fact sheet about its air-defense capabilities.  

Iron Dome

An archive picture image shows a missile array from the Iron Dome, on July 8, 2014, in Ashdod, Israel

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

First developed in 2011 and widely considered to be one of the most advanced air-defense systems in the world, the Iron Dome is designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery.

It consists of batteries that have multiple launchers, each of which can hold up 20 Tamir interceptors. The batteries — consisting of a radar and a battle management system — are scattered around Israel and can defend nearly 60-square miles. Interceptors are capable of engaging projectiles from 40 miles away.  

The Iron Dome is the most well-known of Israel’s air-defense systems and has been put to serious work since fierce fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas over the weekend. The ongoing conflict began with surprise terror attacks in Israel by Hamas militants on October 7. The latest figures estimate that the attacks killed over 1,300 Israelis — mostly civilians — and injured more than 3,200 others.

In retaliation for the brutal massacre, Israeli fighter jets have relentlessly bombed what the IDF says are Hamas targets across Gaza, reducing neighborhoods to rubble. At least 1,500 Palestinians have been killed and over 6,600 injured, according to an update from the coastal enclave’s health ministry on Friday. 

And as the IDF prepares for what appears to be an imminent ground invasion of Gaza, the exchange of rockets and bombs has not let up. 

The IDF said that as of Friday, Hamas had fired over 6,000 rockets at Israel, keeping the Iron Dome busy as it works to defend civilian the country’s centers.

To help Israel sustain its defense, the Pentagon announced the delivery of Iron Dome missile interceptors — alongside artillery and other munitions — as part of an ongoing effort to outfit Israel with security assistance. Iron Dome has a reported intercept success rate of around 90%, but some inbound threats do manage to break through.

David’s Sling

The David’s Sling Air Defense System is seen during a ceremony inaugurating a joint U.S.-Israeli missile interceptor at the Hatzor Air Base, Israel. Sunday, April 2, 2017. David’s Sling, meant to counter medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, officially became operational at the ceremony, the military said.

Sebastian Scheiner / AP

David’s Sling is the next layer of Israel’s air-defense network, and its deployment on Friday marks one of only a few times that the system has been used since it became operational in 2017. Also known as the Magic Wand, it fires an interceptor called the Stunner (which doesn’t have a warhead) to defeat medium- to long-range rockets and missiles at a range of up to 185 miles. 

The David’s Sling system includes a missile firing unit, a fire control radar, a battle management station, and the interceptor. Earlier this year, Finland — NATO’s newest member — said it approved the purchase of the system in a bid to boost its security.     

“David’s Sling significantly strengthens Israel’s aerial defense strategy and is a central factor in Israel’s multi-tiered defense array, providing additional protection against short and medium range threats, and complementing the capabilities of the Arrow and the Iron Dome systems,” according to Israel’s foreign ministry. 

Arrow

The Arrow-3 Interceptor missile.

US Missile Defense Agency

The upper layer of Israel’s air-defense network consists of Arrow systems. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, Arrow-2 was first deployed in 2000 and was later followed by Arrow-3 in 2017. 

Both types of systems use two-stage solid-fueled interceptors to engage targets like short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the upper atmosphere, and they each include a launcher, radar, and battle management system. 

“Arrow-3 serves as the top layer of Israel’s defense array. Its interceptor is a world-class missile that, together with the Arrow-2, significantly expands the State of Israel’s defense capabilities,” Israel’s foreign ministry says in its fact sheet. “The Arrow-3 system’s capabilities enable longer range, higher altitude (exo-atmospheric), and more precise ballistic missile engagements.”

Patriot  

US Army Patriot missile-defense systems during an exercise in Capu Midia, Romania in November 2016.

US Defense Department/Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

Outside of those defense systems, Israel is also one of nearly 20 countries that operates the MIM-104 Patriot missile defense battery, which is a US-made truck-mounted surface-to-air missile system.

The Patriot is a top US air and missile defense system and is capable of engaging ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft, drones, and loitering munitions. One battery consists of eight launchers that are armed with four interceptor missiles, each of which can eliminate targets at at altitude of nearly 80,000 feet. These highly capable systems have grabbed also headlines over the past year for their use by Ukrainian forces in fending off Russia’s ongoing invasion, including missiles once touted as unstoppable.

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