New SAM system will boost skills of 64 F-35s along Russian border

The Israeli Defence Ministry, on November 12, confirmed the sealing of a deal that would enable the provision of David’s Sling long-range air defense systems to the Finnish Armed Forces. This critical development came soon after Helsinki’s affiliation with the NATO alliance within the same month. 

Finland is one step closer to improving its high-altitude air defenses
Photo credit: AFP

The Ministry provided more details about the contract, with the statement: “Our Director General, MG [Res] Eyal Zamir, has finalized an agreement to sell ‘David’s Sling’ to Finland at an approximate cost of 317 million EUR. David’s Sling is esteemed as one of the global leaders in combating advanced threats, inclusive of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft, and drones.”

David’s Sling and F-35s

Consider the David’s Sling as a handy addition to Finland’s fleet of 64 F-35 fifth-generation fighters, purchased from the United States in December 2021. This Israeli air defense system can receive targeting data from these aircraft, effectively safeguarding Finnish air bases. This boosts the overall protection of Finnish territory against airborne threats.

Given the F-35’s notoriously low availability rates, which translates into more time grounded for each hour flown compared to other fighter classes, it becomes especially critical to safeguard facilities housing these aircraft.

Delivery may be delayed

RAF Lakenheath in the UK is expected to host new US nukes in 2024 - British F-35
Photo by Senior Airman Koby I. Saunders

The timeliness of Israel’s David’s Sling systems delivery is increasingly under scrutiny. This comes in the wake of heightened tensions with the Palestinian militia groups in the Gaza Strip. Notably, the country is quickly grappling with ammunition shortages, especially for short-range air defense systems.

If the growing tensions between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, or their strategic companion Iran, amplify, it is anticipated that Israel will significantly depend on David’s Sling for protection. Why? Both Hezbollah and Iran possess substantial stockpiles of sophisticated ballistic and cruise missiles, not to mention aircraft capable of attacking Israeli territory.

Given the increased likelihood of conflict, Israel might decide to bolster its reserves of missiles for the current David’s Sling launchers. However, considerations like arsenal depletion due to skirmishes or the risk of them being targeted by air defense suppression assets could curb the capability of Israeli manufacturers to supply international customers with additional David’s Sling systems.   

Notable defense system

David’s Sling, a notable defense system, has yet to be exported. However, after it was deployed against targets in Syrian airspace, the captured munitions were dispatched to Russia for analysis. This occurrence has sparked a discussion about the potential risks. Specifically, if the knowledge obtained through this analysis permits Russia to develop countermeasures, it may jeopardize the effectiveness of the system if it were deployed to Europe.  

The role of David’s Sling systems in Finland continues to grow. This surge in importance comes as the United States is keen on expanding its military footprint in the country. This includes pursuing basing rights for several F-35 squadrons. Notably, the stealth aircraft, with its nuclear capability, presents a significant concern for Russian security. The influence of these planes is expected to be high, particularly with the enhanced protection offered by the Israeli air defense systems safeguarding the hosting facilities.

Security of Europe

The timely delivery of David’s Sling by Israel not only exhibits their commitment but also holds wider implications for the security of Europe. Pini Yungman, the Executive Vice President and General Manager at Rafael’s Air and Missile Defence Systems Division, an Israeli defense manufacturing entity, has voiced optimism about expanding the system’s reach further into Europe after the contract with Finland.

In the wake of combat losses sustained by NATO’s principal ground-based air defense system, the Patriot, in Ukraine – which allowed for a close examination of its capabilities by Russian forces – there has been an increase in the demand for a more advanced next-generation system. Currently, no substantial NATO-compatible alternatives to David’s Sling are available on the market. 

Will it counter Ishkander?

NASA: Russia hit Mirgorod MiG-24 base with ballistic missiles - Iskander-M
Photo credit: Reddit

There has been considerable debate about the system’s effectiveness against missiles that employ semi-ballistic depressed trajectories, such as the Russian Iskander. Furthermore, it is generally agreed that the system cannot likely dependably intercept missiles equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles like the Russian Zircon.

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