On August 2nd, Israel’s Ministry of Military Affairs announced that it had received approval from the US to sell David’s Sling to Finland, finalizing a lucrative deal worth $345.80 million (€316 million).
The international sales of David’s Sling require approval from both parties, given that the air-defense system was a joint effort between Israeli company Rafael and American conglomerate Raytheon.
Back in April, shortly after becoming a member of the NATO military alliance, Finland greenlit the arms deal, aiming to become the first foreign user of the system.
This air-defense mechanism, which will be deployed along Finland’s border with Russia, is designed to intercept hostile aircraft, drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles launched within ranges of 40 to 300 km.
David’s Sling is frequently portrayed in glowing terms, with claims of being “90 percent” effective. However, such assertions are based on official sources from the Israeli government and haven’t been independently verified or substantiated.
Israel has a historical pattern of presenting collaborative projects with the US as its own achievements, and both countries have a track record of inflating and falsifying performance metrics of such jointly developed military systems, primarily to facilitate exports and generate substantial profits.
Past instances of misleading anti-missile systems
The example of the American MIM-104 Patriot, Israel’s first operational anti-missile system, serves as a clear illustration of such manipulations and profit-driven actions.
After the Gulf War in 1991, the Patriot was hailed as an almost infallible defense tool that successfully intercepted “ninety percent” of Iraqi ballistic missiles launched at both US-aligned Arab nations and Israel.
Buoyed by these exaggerated effectiveness claims, Patriot systems were extensively exported to various European, Arab, and East Asian nations, resulting in a multi-billion-dollar arms trade.
However, subsequent US military assessments gradually reduced the Patriot’s efficacy against basic Iraqi ballistic missiles to sixty percent and later to just nine percent.
Even the purportedly first-ever successful interception of an enemy ballistic missile turned out to be untrue, as the Patriot missile had been fired into empty airspace due to a computer error.
Controversy regarding the system’s performance persists to this day, with conflicting reports on its efficacy – one grounded in reality for the US military’s genuine requirements and another embellished for the sake of exports.
Despite some improvements, the system’s recent failure to counter retaliatory attacks by the Yemeni Ansarallah resistance movement underscores its unreliability.
The fact that both Israel and the US are investing in alternatives to the Patriot system further exposes its shortcomings, especially against newer advanced ballistic missiles.
Misleading claims about new anti-missile systems
Manipulating effectiveness assessments, the exorbitant costs of anti-ballistic systems, and limited global manufacturers have all contributed to similar distortions regarding more recent US-Israeli collaborative systems and their aggressive export endeavors.
Iron Dome, an air-defense system designed to intercept and neutralize short-range rockets and artillery shells, has also been marketed in recent years as tremendously successful, boasting “90 percent” effectiveness.
These assertions stem from the system’s manufacturer and the Israeli government, lacking independent validation or secondary evidence to substantiate the claims. In reality, the evidence contradicts these assertions.
Despite Israel’s efforts to downplay the damage caused by retaliatory rocket attacks from Palestine, videos of destroyed factories, refineries, and offshore drilling platforms circulate on social media, indicating that the extent of damage far surpasses official acknowledgments.
The Iron Dome is designed to protect these industrial assets and settlement infrastructure. Its missiles self-destruct harmlessly in mid-air if an interception fails.
Videos of these explosions, whether they depict successful interceptions or self-destruction, have been deceptively used as supposed proof of effective interceptions for propaganda purposes.
The flawed manipulation becomes apparent in promotional footage from the manufacturer, showing uniform flashes and sound effects of explosions in the sky, erroneously suggesting that light and sound travel at the same speed.
Another significant challenge with systems like Iron Dome and David’s Sling is their cost-effectiveness; they are significantly more expensive than the missiles they are designed to intercept.
As a result, even if highly effective, these systems only prove valuable when the adversary possesses a limited number of missiles and lacks a robust production base.
Israel’s concealment and export initiatives
Israel targets its exports towards nations with relatively stable environments where imminent armed conflict is unlikely. Consequently, there’s little fear of impartial, non-Israeli verification of effectiveness under wartime conditions.
Finland, a prosperous country sharing a border with Russia and a recent NATO member, represents an ideal scenario. This mirrors Israel’s previous efforts to export its air-defense systems to countries like Japan, Singapore, Germany, and the UK.
Efforts to export questionable and unverified anti-missile technologies are also notable in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, where Washington and Tel Aviv vigorously lobby for their adoption.
On the other hand, Israel refrains from supplying its “supreme” systems to Ukraine, a nation that has become a testing ground for new Western weaponry.
Despite repeated claims of high effectiveness in downing Russian missiles and drones with “ninety percent” accuracy, Ukraine’s appeals to Tel Aviv have been rebuffed. This is interpreted as Israel’s ability to balance relationships between conflicting parties, but it contradicts the reality.
Israel’s refusal to meet Ukraine’s demands stems from its awareness of the vulnerability of its systems. If Israel genuinely possessed a revolutionary game-changing system, it would likely export it to Ukraine for quick, independent verification. This would lead numerous countries to invest billions in procuring these expensive anti-missile systems.
Potential repercussions from Russia wouldn’t deter such exports, as evidenced by previous sales to Georgia and the possibility of indirect exports to Ukraine through the US, which is an equal partner in system development.
Another theoretical option is exporting Israel’s supposedly miraculous air-defense systems to both countries, effectively neutralizing their air capabilities. This would align with Washington’s interests, considering the havoc caused by Russian cruise missiles and drones in Ukraine.
However, none of these scenarios have materialized or will likely come to fruition in the future due to the fear of exposing the actual performance levels.
Developers of joint US-Israeli anti-missile programs are acutely aware of their systems’ vulnerabilities, limiting exports to peaceful countries like Finland while relying on the old marketing tactic of claiming “90 percent” effectiveness.