The Russian military has reportedly obtained one of Israel's most advanced air defense missiles from the David's Sling battery, the Times of Israel reports, raising the possibility that Russia could quickly figure out how to defeat a cutting-edge system designed to destroy ballistic missiles in flight and share that with US and Israeli foes like Iran.
The Russian military reportedly obtained the missile in July of 2018, when Israel fired it against Russian-made Syrian rockets headed toward Israeli terrority. Of the two missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired at Syria, one was self-detonated by the Israeli Air Force when it became clear the Syrian weapons wouldn't breach Israel's border.
The other missile reportedly landed intact within Syria, where, as Chinese news agency SINA reported Nov. 2, 2019, it was picked up by Syrian forces and handed over to Russia, which is fighting alongside the regime troops under Bashar al-Assad.
The David's Sling is a medium-range missile interceptor and was built by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US company Raytheon as a replacement for the Patriot missile battery built to defeat ballistic missiles. Israel first obtained the system in 2017; July 2018 is believed to be the first operational use of the system, which fires the Stunner missile.
David's Sling Weapons System Stunner Missile intercepts target during inaugural flight test.
(United States Missile Defense Agency)
"It's certainly a concern. If I was at Rafael, I'd be nervous right now," Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, told Insider.
The concern, Williams said, is not so much that Russia will produce a copy of the system for its own use as other countries might. "If Iran captured this thing, we would see an identical system two years from now," he told Insider.
But if Russia has indeed got its hands on the Stunner missile, it could study the technology and figure out how to defeat the David's Sling system, which would be a massive problem for the countries — like Poland — where Israel is attempting to sell the system, not to mention Israel itself.
"If I was Israel, my big concern is that if Russia can get the intelligence to defeat the interceptor to Iran," Williams said.
Dmitry Stefanovich, Russian International Affairs Council expert and Vatfor project co-founder, told Insider that Russia could also potentially use the missile to refine its own systems — "both offensive and defensive."
"In terms of air defense interceptors, they're no slouches themselves, they do have pretty advanced, very sophisticated interceptors as is," Williams said, citing the S-300, S-400, and S-500 systems.
SINA also reported that the United States and Israel requested that Russia return the missile to Israel; however, that effort was unsuccessful. Neither Russia nor the IDF has confirmed reports of the missile coming into Russian possession, according to the Times of Israel.
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