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Israel successfully tests US-backed missile shield

A new Israeli air defense system has stood up to a series of recent live tests. During a visit from Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Israel's defense minister said "David's Sling" could be operational next year.

Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Wednesday that the new air defense system being developed in partnership with the US might be ready for deployment by 2016.

Yaalon's ministry said on Wednesday that the system, "David's Sling," shot down targets simulating longer-range missiles like Scuds (one of which is pictured above) that could be fired out of Syria or from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

"We believe that next year it's going to be operational," Yaalon told journalists in Jerusalem at an appearance with visiting House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican. He also thanked the US for its assistance, calling it an example of strong US-Israeli ties, as Boehner nodded in agreement.

Bildergalerie Iran Atomverhandlung Schweiz Lausanne

The announcement coincided with the push for an Iranian framework deal in Lausanne

The tests began in 2012 and had been completed in recent weeks, with the most recent operations taking place on Tuesday - the nominal deadline for a framework deal in talks on Iran's nuclear program. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just like the opposition Republicans in the US, have criticized the negotiating process with Iran.

Slings, arrows, and an Iron Dome

David's Sling, named after the Old Testament myth of David and Goliath, is to become part of what Israel calls a "multi-layer" missile defense system. This also includes "Arrow," a program designed to intercept longer-range missiles from places like Iran, and the "Iron Dome" defense system against short-range rockets, which is already operational.

Israeli defense company Rafael is leading the development, with US company Raytheon as a sub-contractor. The system uses "Stunner" interceptor missiles, which successfully hit "threat-representative targets" during the testing phase, according to Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency.

"This … is a major milestone in the development of the David's Sling weapons and provides confidence in future Israeli capabilities to defend against this developing threat," Lehner said.

Israeli officials last month asked Congress in the US to approve additional funds of $317 million (294 million euros) for David's Sling and other defense programs. On Wednesday, Israeli media published military assessments saying that, in the event of another war with Hezbollah, the guerillas could fire up to 1,500 rockets a day at Israel.

msh/gsw (AP, Reuters)

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