First hit: STUNNER multi-stage interceptor shot down a rocket

The multi-stage interceptor Stunner, developed by the Israeli Rafael and supported by the American Raytheon, made its first successful interception in real combat conditions. This happened on Wednesday, May 10, when official Tel Aviv announced the interception of a rocket from the Gaza Strip by David’s Sling system.

Combat debut: STUNNER multi-stage interceptor downed a rocket
Photo credit: Israeli MoD

This is actually the second combat use of this interceptor. However, years ago [2021] it failed. When a missile was launched from Syria, Stunner failed to intercept the target. It is said, according to Israeli media reports, that the cause was a technical malfunction in David’s Sling. However, the military did not make public what the technical problem was.

Stunner is considered a technological marvel in intercepting enemy targets. This missile owes its existence to another Israeli legend – the Python 5 missile. This missile was also developed by Raphael, but it is air-to-air, not surface-to-air. However, her technologies are integrated into the Stunner.

Stunner is a multi-stage interceptor designed to intercept the most advanced tactical ballistic missiles. Among them are the Russian Iskander and the Chinese DF-15. The Stunner should intercept enemy missiles at medium and long range, according to its specifications.

Combat debut: STUNNER multi-stage interceptor downed a rocket
Photo credit: AP Photo/Fatima Shbair

This interceptor should not miss a single missile in principle. The reason for this is the use of onboard dual CCD/IR seekers. What does this mean? If an enemy missile drops a decoy, one seeker tracks the decoy while the second seeks the missile itself. In reality, the enemy missile has no escape “out of sight” of the Stunner. Israeli experts claim that the dual seekers in the Stunner clearly distinguish between a decoy and an actual warhead. This way, the missile knows which of the two “illuminated” targets to target.

Stunner operates using radar information from the Elta EL/M-2084 Active electronically scanned multimode radar. This radar is part of the entire medium and long-range air defense system the David’s Sling. In the nose of the rocket, however, there is also a radar and an electro-optical sensor. That is why the missile is characterized as a multi-stage interceptor. Because thanks to the integration in the nose, the Stunner can target and guide.

Stunner can intercept targets at a distance of 75 km to 250 km. The rocket power unit is also quite interesting. In the first phase of capture, a solid propellant propels a rocket booster, after which the asymmetric vehicle is activated. It has been refined to be highly maneuverable. In the last stage of the capture, a three-pulse engine is turned on. It should not only maintain the speed of the rocket but also provide additional acceleration. This acceleration should at the same time give even greater maneuverability to the rocket.

Combat debut: STUNNER multi-stage interceptor downed a rocket
Photo credit: Raytheon

The Stunner missile and David’s Sling system are relatively recent developments. They were first integrated into Israeli defense in the middle of the last decade. The first tests of the system were successful. They took place in southern Israel in 2012 when the system intercepted and destroyed a test incoming missile. According to Israeli media reports, Tel Aviv is working on an option that would allow the Stunner to be launched from a fighter jet or an interceptor aircraft.

The Stunner missile and David’s Sling system are part of Israel’s multi-tiered air defense. Arrow 2, Arrow 3, Iron Dome, and Iron Beam also fit into this air defense network.

Sky over Israel - Iron Dome against Hamas rockets [Photos]
Photo credit: AFP

Speaking of the Iron Dome, an Al Jazeera correspondent says that in the latest rocket attack in recent days, at least 400 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. A part of them, a small part, managed to hit residential buildings. The words of the journalist were also confirmed by the Minister of Defense of Israel Mr. Yoav Galant. According to Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Israel, it is the affected residential buildings that may be evidence that the effectiveness of the Iron Dome is decreasing compared to before when there were no such damages. recalls that Iron Dome operates and intercepts based on the principle of a complex mathematical algorithm. When the system detects a launch from enemy territory it turns on. The radar instantly detects the object, and the algorithm calculates the estimated landing point of the enemy missile. If the algorithm shows a deserted area [field, forest, desert, sea] Iron Dome does not launch a missile. If it indicated landing in a populated area, the missile was fired to intercept. Therefore, the correspondent of Al Jazeera spoke about the reduced efficiency of the Israeli air defense flagship.


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