As seen this past week, Israel’s impressive ability to shoot down hundreds of rockets is being revised. Israel’s leaders have turned to engineers within Raytheon Co. based in Waltham, Massachusetts to stay a step ahead in developing a new interceptor missile. Meanwhile Hezbollah is storing thousands of sophisticated missiles with greater ranges and payloads in Lebanon. Israelis are counting on the missile, David’s Sling, to become the main attraction of their defense shield.
A former advisor of the US Navy thinks a problem they might run into is that it is a much more difficult target, which means the missile interceptor needs to be very capable. David’s Sling is designed to compliment the Iron Dome, which is Israel’s current defense system that destroyed approximately 400 rockets from Gaza. The Iron Dome is designed to determine which rockets are aimed towards populated areas, and destroy them with a missile known as Tamir, all in a matter of seconds.
Israel’s defense industry developed the Iron Dome with $200 million in financing from the US so far. While David’s Sling has been funded by the Israeli firm Rafael, for about $130 million over the past three years. If the system proves to be feasible, additional funding could come from the US. One major difference is that the new interceptor missile should be able to be redirected in mid-flight, to account for changes in the route of the incoming weapon. Under the Iron Dome system, once the operator fires the interceptor missile, its course cannot be modified.
The positive outcome of the Iron Dome system has thrilled missile defense advocates, who contend its success rate validates the old vision of being able to shoot down a missile with another missile. The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to make a breakthrough since President Reagan first brought up that vision during the Cold War.
The missiles designed by Iran and Russia, smuggled from Syria, and now in the hands of Hezbollah, are over qualified. Capable of traveling faster and potentially reaching all of Israel, a range of 150 miles, also includes a guidance system that makes these missiles a greater threat to populated areas.
Hezbollah is not the only threat, especially as the Syrian civil war continues. Not only does the civil war in Syria raise concerns due to the country’s large stash of missiles and chemical weapons, but there is also a threat of Scud missiles. Russian Scuds (series of tactical ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War) are capable of traveling hundreds of miles and can carry large warheads (the explosive material delivered by a missile).
Israel is also working with Boeing on a more sophisticated system known as Arrow 3, designed to intercept missiles that can travel thousands of miles. The more immediate threat to Israel is seen as something between Iran or North Korea mounting a nuclear warhead on such missiles and the make shift ones in Gaza. And for that reason, a lot is riding on the new Raytheon-built missile. Needless to say, all eyes in Israel and the US will be glues to the monitors during the pending test in the Negev Desert with a dummy missile.