Did Israel withdraw from Swiss air-defense tender due to U.S. pressure?

Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems pulled it’s David’s Sling surface-to-air missile defense system from a Swiss tender following pressure from the United States.

The David Sling system which became operational two years was first used last year against two SS-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missiles launched from Syria, but they missed their mark and has since not been again.

But according to the report in Switzerland’s German-language Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper, the system “itself was not the reason behind withdrawing from the tender, but rather pressure from Washington who wanted their Patriot system to win.”

“We cannot sell everything we want,” an anonymous Israeli official was quoted by NZZ as saying.

The Swiss defense ministry last year earmarked 1.3 billion-1.5 billion Swiss francs to buy a surface-to-air missile defense system that can protect 15,000 km² and effectively engage targets beyond 12,000m high at a distance of 50 kilometers.

The David’s Sling,also known as “Magic Wand,” is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300km. 

The system, NZZ said,  “was tailored to the operational requirements of Switzerland perfectly.”

According to a report last year in Defense News, David’s Sling was on the short list for the missile competition along with Raytheon’s Patriot and Eurosam’s SAMP/T.

But while it was considered a top contender, Rafael failed to submit a bid effectively withdrawing from the tender.

David’s Sling is a joint Israeli-US project, with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems collaborating with Raytheon. Other components of the system were developed by Elta- a subdivision of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)- which developed the system’s radar, and the Elisra subdivision of Elbit Systems, which developed the command and control mechanisms.

“The David’s Sling weapon system is an important layer as part of the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture operated by the IAF to defend Israel against medium-range missiles among other threats,” read a statement given by Israel’s Ministry of Defense to The Jerusalem Post when asked if Israel pulled out of the Swiss tender due to American pressure.

“Israel considers Switzerland an important strategic partner, and the Ministry of Defense sees great value and importance in the cooperation between our countries,” it added.

According to the ministry statement “its capabilities are constantly developed to the operational needs against existing and future threats in the region” and recently Israel and the US “completed a series of interception tests to demonstrate the system’s advanced capabilities in different scenarios that simulate the future threats that the David’s Sling Weapon System may confront in battle.”

Rafael did not comment on the matter.

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