Thursday, September 29, 2022

‘Russian Aggression’ Sends Finland Into A Tizzy; Looks To Acquire Barak MX Or David Sling’s Missile Defense System From Israel

Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland’s Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen has announced the decision to purchase an air defense system from Israel.

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This comes after a week of Russia threatening the Nordic nation with “serious military and political” repercussions in response to Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s remarks about the possibility of Finland applying for NATO membership.

Finland and Russia share a 1,300 km border. As in the case with Ukraine, Moscow does not like the idea of its neighboring countries leaning towards the US-led military alliance. 

The statement from the Finnish Ministry of Defense said that invitations for preliminary bids were sent to five companies, including two Israeli firms – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (RADS) – that have apparently reached the final round of negotiations.

IAI is offering its Barak MX and Rafael its David’s Sling — both of which are based on a network-centric concept in which a range of sensors and interceptors are connected and coordinated by a single integrated Battle Management Center (BMC).

The Barak Air Defense System

Barak-MX is a modular air defense system that operates both on naval and land-based platforms and belongs to the Barak missile family, which consists of three types of interceptors. It is designed to address missile and aircraft threats. 

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These interceptors are the Barak MRAD, which has a single pulse rocket motor with a range of 35 km, the Barak LRAD, which has a dual pulse rocket motor with a range of 70 km, and Barak ER, which has a dual pulse rocket motor with the longest range of 100 km and an additional booster for a range of 150 km. Barak ER also features enhanced theater ballistic missile (TBM) capabilities. 

Barak 8 missile
Indian Navy’s INS Kolkata firing a Barak 8 missile. (Wikimedia Commons)

The vertical launch capability of Barak’s interceptors enables 360° coverage and IAI claims that the system’s highly advanced seeker can work under any weather conditions and detect threats that have low radar cross-sections or high maneuverability.  

Also, the seeker uses both a wide and narrow radio frequency (RF) beam, meaning it can lock on to any target at any altitude and thus, provide defense against an array of threats from land, air, and sea. 

The BARAK MX system’s open architecture enables integrating it with any new or existing legacy systems already being operated by the customer.  

David’s Sling

On the other hand, Rafael’s David’s Sling is one of the layers in Israel’s rocket and ballistic missile defense system that can also be used to intercept armed UAVs. The system has been developed by Rafael in cooperation with Raytheon. 

The system’s interceptor is a two-stage missile referred to as ‘Stunner’, designed to intercept the latest generation of TBMs at low altitudes, such as the Russian Iskander and the Chinese DF-15 using a radar and an electro-optical sensor installed in its nose-tip to distinguish between decoys and the actual warhead of the missile.  

Stunner missile of the David's Sling air defense system
The Stunner missile of the David’s Sling air defense system. (Wikimedia Commons)

David’s Sling is designed to work together with other systems like the much-touted ‘Iron Dome’ and the Arrow ballistic missiles interceptor. Compared to Iron Dome, David’s Sling can protect a larger area with a relatively fewer number of batteries.  

The interceptors from both, Barak and David’s Sling have been deployed in combat situations in the past.  

As Eurasian Times had reported in 2020, there were claims about Barak 8 LRSAM successfully intercepting the Russian-made Iskander ballistic missile launched by Armenia towards Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

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Blast From The Past 

In July 2018, Stunner interceptors were deployed by the Israeli Air Force against two Syrian OTR-21 Tochka missiles suspected to be fired towards the Jewish country. Later, it turned out that those were part of the infighting in Syria and were not aimed at Israel.  

The Air Force managed to detonate one of the interceptors but the other one probably suffered a malfunction and failed to self-destruct before crashing inside Syria. One year after the incident, a Chinese media report claimed that the missile was found intact by Syrian military forces who handed it over to their Russian counterparts from where it was taken to Moscow for reverse engineering.  

David's Sling
David’s Sling air defense system. (Wikimedia Commons)

This report raised some concerns about the operational efficacy of the Stunner interceptors against the Russian weapons. However, most experts dismissed such concerns. It is believed Switzerland and Gulf Countries have shown interest in acquiring David’s Sling.  

Meanwhile, interceptors from the Barak missile family are being operated by the navies of Israel and India. Recently, Morocco has reached a $500-million deal with IAI for the Barak MX air defense system.  

As for Finland, the final purchase decision is to be made in 2023, and procurement is planned to include equipment such as transporter erector launchers, radar systems, missiles and related integration equipment, as per the statement released by the Finnish Defense Ministry.

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