Over the years, the Golan Heights has been the scene of some of the most vicious tank battles and aerial duels the world has ever seen, pitting the Israel Defense Forces against those of Syria. Over the weekend, the region was once again embroiled in a battle of sorts, as the IDF attempted to down a Syrian-launched drone flying over the contested area. According to Defense News, “An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Syria managed Sunday to penetrate Israeli airspace and evade two Patriot anti-air interceptors and possibly an F-16-launched air-to-air missile, sources here said.
An Israeli military spokesman insisted Israel Air Force air defenders detected the UAV prior to its violation of Israeli airspace on Sunday afternoon in the area of the Golan Heights. According to a July 17 statement, the Air Force continued to track the target in Israeli skies, yet failed to down the intruder, despite three intercept attempts.
“The aircraft was detected prior to entering the nation’s territory and was fully tracked by the Israel Air Force,” noted a July 17 statement. “From the initial investigation, it was found that three intercept attempts took place as per procedure. No hit of the target was identified.”
The drone, likely a Yasir purchased from Iran, is a small, low-cost, long-endurance Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built by Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO) and unveiled on 28 September 2013. It is capable of flying at an altitude of 15,000 ft, has an endurance of 8 hours, and an operational radius of 200 km It is an unlicensed copy of the American ScanEagle drone. No doubt used against ISIS forces over disputed regions of Syria, its deployment above the Golan marks the first time it was deployed over the bitterly contested region.
Its not clear if the Israelis fired their newly-developed David’s Sling SAN system at the drone. Also called Magic Wand, David’s Sling is an Israel Defense Forces military system being jointly developed by the Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the American defense contractor Raytheon, designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles, fired at ranges from 40 km (24.85 miles) to 300 km (186.41 miles). David’s Sling is meant to replace the MIM-23 Hawk and MIM-104 Patriot in the Israeli arsenal. It is designed to intercept the newest generation of tactical ballistic missiles, such as Iskander, using an on-board dual CCD/IR seekers to distinguish between decoys and the actual warhead of the missile, in addition to tracking by Elta EL/M-2084 Active electronically scanned array multi-mode radar. The multi-stage interceptor consists of a solid-fuel, rocket motor booster, followed by an asymmetrical kill vehicle with advanced steering for super-maneuverability during the kill-stage. A three-pulse motor provides additional acceleration and maneuverability during the terminal phase. David’s Sling was planned to be deployed in 2015, but budget shortfalls for infrastructure for deployable missile batteries will delay its operational date.
David’s Sling is meant to bolster the second tier of Israel’s theater missile defense system. The two-stage radar and electro-optic guided system has a 70–300 kilometer range, three times that of Iron Dome. The system can be deployed against aircraft and missiles, with plans to convert the system to intercept cruise missiles in the future.
The name David’s Sling comes from the biblical story of David and Goliath. It will form one level of Israel’s future multi-tiered missile defense system that Israel is developing, which will also include Arrow 2, Arrow 3, Iron Dome and Iron Beam from as early as 2018.