The agreements come as part of Israel’s rising defense export industries.
By Erin Viner
“The Finnish government’s decision to acquire the David’s Sling system reflects the strong defense ties between our countries, as well as the cutting-edge capabilities of Israel’s defense industries. I would like to thank the Finnish government and my counterpart, Minister of Defense Antti Kaikkonen, for placing their trust in the system,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, while expressing confidence that “the cooperation between our countries will further enhance our readiness to respond to regional and global threats.”
Finland, which shares a long 1,340-km (833-mile) border with Russia, has recently decided to further step up its defense spending following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. It recently became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on 4 April 2023.
The sale will mark the first export of David’s Sling abroad. The Finnish Defense Ministry chose the advanced Israeli system following years of involvement in a competitive process.
The David’s Sling Weapon System, which has been operational since 2017, is a core component of Israel’s multi‐tier air defense array that serves as an intermediate layer between the Iron Dome and Arrow missile‐defense systems. It was developed in a joint program by the IMoD’s Israel Missile Defense Organization and the United States Missile Defense Agency, with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. as the prime contractor.
The national defense system is designed to intercept advanced aerial threats, including ballistic and cruise missiles, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, drones). It is based on a motor interceptor with exceptional maneuverability and speed, with high interoperability capabilities provided by external systems through a dedicated architecture – allowing flexibility while operating as part of an air‐defense array which consists of numerous diverse systems.
Due to the program’s joint development with the US, the deal is contingent on final export approval from Washington. IMoD Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) head, Brigadier General (Res.) Dr. Daniel Gold, said the DDR&D’s Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) has already applied for US Government authorization.
The Finnish version of the system will be manufactured and integrated as a collaboration between Israeli, American and Finnish contractors, led by Rafael and Raytheon.
Per the € 316 million Euro agreement, layered defense against various threats Jerusalem will provide Helsinki includes interceptors, launchers and radar that will ultimately be connected to Finnish command and control systems.
“The Ministry of Defense thanks the Government of Finland for their selection of our advanced interception system, David’s Sling, as the solution for the Finnish Defense Forces,” said the IMoD Director General Major General (Res.) Eyal Zamir, adding, “This is a vote of confidence in the Israeli defense establishment and a quantum leap in the defense collaboration between Finland and Israel.”
Noting that the advanced system has garnered great interest worldwide, Rafael CEO & President, Major General (Res.) Yoav Har‐Even commented that the David’s Sling deal is the latest of a “list of agreements we have already reached” with Finland, while expressing Israel’s expectation to “bring about more cooperation in the future.”
Remarking that “the system will significantly strengthen the capability of Finland’s air defense,” Commander of the Finnish Air Force, Major General Juha‐Pekka Keranen said, explaining, “together with the commissioning of the F‐35 and the already fielded ground‐based air defense systems in service, the air defense of Finland will be very substantial on the European scale.”
In other developments, Greece reached a € 370 million Euro agreement with the IMoD to acquire Israel’s “Spike” missiles.
Maj. Gen. Zamir signed the government-to-government (GTG) deal with Head of the Greek General Directorate for Defense Investments and Armaments, Vice Admiral (Ret.) Aristeidis Alexopulos for the export of naval, air and land-based spike missiles manufactured by Rafael.
Spike anti-tank guided missiles are innovative and precise electro-optical missiles that incorporate advanced technology, and can be launched by some 45 platforms from the air, land and sea.
An estimated 40 countries around the world use the Israeli system, including 19 European Union nations and NATO allies. So far, more than 34,000 variations of the Spike have been delivered abroad, of which over 6,000 have been launched both during training and operational use.
“This project joins a series of agreements between the State of Israel and the Hellenic Republic, and further emphasizes the strong partnership between our countries and our defense establishments, as well as our mutual commitment to ensuring regional stability,” commented Defense Minister Gallant, going on to commend Israeli defense industries for their technological capabilities that enable the state to manifest both “positive economic and political achievements.”
Asserting that the deal “is yet another expression of the strategic partnership between Israel and Greece,” Maj. Gen. Zamir noted is comes as part of a series of agreements worth billions of shekels (₪ 1 Israeli shekel = € 0.25 Euro), which we have signed in the last two years, including the recent update of the Greek Air Force Pilot Training Center’s capabilities.”
Maj. Gen. Har-Even also expressed hope for further expansion through strategic collaborations between Israel and Greece “in the near future.”