Finland to purchase Israel’s David’s Sling anti-missile system

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Finland said on Wednesday it will buy Israel’s David’s Sling missile defense system in an initial deal worth about 316 million euros ($344 million,) in an announcement made a day after it joined the NATO military alliance.

“David’s Sling system will significantly increase the operational range of Finland’s land-based air defense capabilities,” the statement said.

“This acquisition will create a new capability for the Defense Forces to intercept targets at high altitude. At the same time we are continuing the ambitious and long-term development of Finland’s defense capabilities in a new security environment,” said Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen.

David’s Sling, produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is capable of intercepting rockets and missiles at a range of 40-300 kilometers (25-185 miles). The statement said the system’s minimum flight height requirement in Finland was set at 15,000 meters. (9.3 miles.)

David’s Sling, also known as the Magic Wand, has been operational in Israel since 2017 and makes up the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layered missile defense capabilities, which also included the short-range Iron Dome and top-tier Arrow 2 and Arrow. 3 system, intended to engage long-range ballistic missiles.

David’s Sling is Israel’s main request from Ukraine, which has been hit by Russian missiles and drones, although Israel has so far supplied the system.

A picture taken on April 2, 2017 shows Israel’s David’s Sling missile defense system during a ceremony to announce its operational capability at Hatzor Air Force base. / AFP Photo / JACK Guez

The Completion announcement came the day after Helsinki joined the NATO military alliance, dealing a major blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Nordic country’s membership and Russia’s border are the world’s largest security alliance. Finland adopted neutrality after being defeated by the Soviets in World War II, but its leaders have indicated they want to join NATO after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves through its neighbours.

“The era of non-alignment in our history has come to an end – a new era begins,” President Sauli Niinistö said before raising his country’s blue and white flag outside NATO headquarters.

Finland noted that as David’s Sling was developed in collaboration with the US, the US Government would require a sales release from the sale.

He also said that the supply contract will include a separate section between the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Finnish Ministry of Defense to ensure the system’s supply security.

A David’s Sling interceptor missile hits its target during a test of the system, in a photo released by the Ministry of Defense on December 21, 2015. (Courtesy)

“The arrangement will ensure the availability of critical system components in all security scenarios,” the statement said.

The US is unlikely to stand in the way of the purchase.

While praising Finland’s membership, US President Joe Biden noted that it had come on the 74th anniversary of the signing of NATO’s founding treaty on April 4, 1949.

“When Putin launched his brutal and aggressive war against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO. It was wrong,” Biden said in a statement. “Today, we are more united than ever. And together — strengthened by our newest ally, Finland — we will continue to preserve transatlantic security, protecting every inch of NATO territory , and taking on every challenge before us.”

The move is a strategic and political setback for Putin, who has long complained about NATO’s expansion toward Russia and used that in part as a justification for the invasion.

Israel resisted supplying arms to Ukraine in the first year of the Russian invasion. One major reason for Israel’s reluctance appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.

However, it was recently reported that Israel has approved the sale of an electronic warfare system with a range of about 40 kilometers (25 miles) that could be used to defend against drone attacks.

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