JERUSALEM — Israeli officials announced Wednesday that a joint U.S.-Israeli missile-defense system has successfully passed a new test and is expected to be operational next year — a development that would provide an important tool in protecting the country against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
The Defense Ministry said the David's Sling system had successfully intercepted targets in a series of tests conducted with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, calling it a "major milestone."
"We believe that next year it's going to be operational," Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told journalists at an appearance with visiting U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. With Boehner nodding in agreement, Yaalon said the project was an example of strong U.S.-Israeli relations.
David's Sling is meant to counter medium-range missiles possessed by enemies throughout the region, most notably Hezbollah. The militant group, which battled Israel during a monthlong war in 2006, is believed to possess tens of thousands of rockets and missiles. The system also aims to protect against low-altitude cruise missiles fired from longer distances.
David's Sling is part of what Israel calls a "multi-layer" missile defense system that includes the Arrow, which is being developed to intercept longer-range missiles from Iran, and the Iron Dome rocket-defense system, which is already operational.
The test was announced as world powers were trying to wrap up a nuclear agreement with Iran. Israel has objected to the emerging agreement, saying much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure would remain intact. It also has said Iran's continued development of long-range missiles is a sign of Iran's bad intentions.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
David's Sling is being developed by Israeli defense company Rafael with American defense giant Raytheon as sub-contractor. Israel Aerospace Industries' Elta subsidiary and Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems are also involved in the project.