Announced for the first time on 6 April, Finland is expected to buy the David’s Sling weapon system from Israel, marking the first time the long-range air defence system has been sold to an outside government. 

Following a rigorous selection process across several years, the Finnish Ministry of Defence has opted for the advanced Israeli system to bolster its defence capabilities against a range of potential threats. The system will be implemented as a multi-layered defence mechanism. 

On April 4, Finland officially joined Nato as its latest member, overturning a longstanding policy of military non-alignment. In response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, Finland began the process of Nato accession on 5 July 2022, paving the way for the country’s membership. The integration of Finland into the Alliance doubles the length of the border Russia shares with Nato, adding around another 1300km to the 1215km boundary. 

Expanded air defence capabilities 

The David’s Sling weapon system is a collaborative effort between the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the US Missile Defense Agency, with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems serving as the primary contractor. The system is specifically engineered to intercept a wide range of aerial threats, such as ballistic missiles, aircrafts, UAVs, and cruise missiles. 

The David’s Sling system is expected to extend the operational range of Finland’s ground-based air defence capabilities significantly, according to the Finnish Ministry of Defence. The minimum flight altitude requirement of the system was set at 15km in the request for quotation.

The Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Major General (Ret.) Eyal Zamir, has confirmed the receipt of the procurement request, saying that the recent collaboration between Finland and Israel marks a significant milestone in the defence industry. He stated that this partnership is a testament to the trust and confidence placed in the Israeli defence establishment. 

Under the agreement, Israel will supply Finland with the David’s Sling system, complete with interceptors, launchers, and radars, to be integrated with Finland’s command and control systems. The programme’s joint development with the US has led to an agreement valued at approximately $344m. 

“The David’s Sling weapon system has been operation since 2017 and is a core component of our multi‐tier air‐defence array.”

Brigadier General (Res.) Daniel Gold, Head of the Israeli Directorate of Defense R&D.

However, final export approval from the US Government is necessary for the deal to be finalised. The contract includes further options worth $236m excluding value added tax, but possible exercise of these options requires a separate decision.

According to Brigadier General (Res.) Daniel Gold, Head of the Directorate of Defense R&D (DDR&D), the Israel Missile Defense Organization stated that a request has been submitted for US Government export approval for the David’s Sling weapon system. “The David’s Sling weapon system has been operation since 2017 and is a core component of our multi‐tier air‐defence array,” Gold said. 

Moshe Patel, who heads the Israel Missile Defense Organization, was responsible for leading the procurement negotiations with the Finnish Government. Rafael, in collaboration with Elta – an IAI subsidiary, and Elbit Systems, has been appointed as the prime contractor for David’s Sling. The multi-mission radar has been developed by Elta, while the Israeli command and control system has been developed by Elbit Systems. 

According to Rafael’s CEO and President, Major General (res.) Yoav Har-Even, the David’s Sling system has attracted significant global attention and the newly reached agreement adds to the existing list of collaborations with the country, with hopes of fostering increased cooperation in the future. 

In a recent statement, Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasised the strong defence ties between Israel and Finland, following the latter’s acquisition of the David’s Sling system.

Finland’s wider defence expansion

The purchase of the David’s Sling system is a part of the country’s wider defence expansion. The Finnish Ministry of Defence has procured a long list of military resources, and these latest developments aim to support Finland’s defence ambitions. The government has recently signed several major defence contracts, including deals for NLAW anti-armour weapons, 155mm munitions, F-35As, and Eurospike anti-tank missiles, totalling $9.4bn.

Alongside its air-defence capabilities, the Finnish Ministry of Defence have also announced on 5 April a contract for the enhancement of its Finnish Border Guard patrol vessels, supplying an integrated power and propulsion package for two newly built ships. 

Scheduled for delivery in 2025 and 2026, two 98m ships are set to replace the current Tursas and Uisko patrol vessels. In addition to its current duties, Turva will be tasked with safeguarding Finland’s borders, conducting maritime rescue missions, and aiding in the mitigation of environmental damage. 

The newly introduced vessels are set to function as command centres for various other vessels, rescue swimmers, divers, helicopters, and in certain circumstances, other public security authorities during collaborative operations.