Stunner Interceptor Nears Low-rate Production

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The joint U.S.-Israel David’s Sling Weapon System, with its Stunner anti-missile interceptor, successfully completed its final integrated program review for 2011 and is entering 2012 with funding for its first full intercept test and low-rate initial production.

Raytheon, U.S. partner with prime contractor Rafael of Haifa, was expected to announce Jan. 9 its receipt of a $30.2 million contract from Rafael to build initial firing units and Stunner subsystem hardware. The contract award followed a year-end review in Israel managed by Rafael, the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, U.S. and Israeli sources said.

“It was a big milestone for them and for us. We’ve gotten development to the point of producing multiple units, not just for flight tests,” said Mike Booen, vice president of Advanced Security and Directed Energy Systems for Raytheon Missile Systems. “That, and the fact that we’re hurtling toward a planned intercept test this year, will really jump-start this program into prime time.”

Designed by Rafael, the hit-to-kill David’s Sling active defense system is intended to intercept long-range rockets, short-range ballistic missiles and all types of air-breathing targets, including cruise missiles.

“It’s a completely different concept for terminal defense and long-range air defense that essentially allows us to engage and destroy anything that penetrates the atmosphere,” Rafael’s Yossi Horowitz said in a recent interview.

Based on technology developed for Rafael’s line of air-to-air missiles, the hypersonic, highly maneuverable Stunner features a new dolphin-head design and has no proximity fuse. Under a 2009 teaming agreement, Raytheon is responsible for subsystem hardware, guidance electronics, inertial measurement unit booster and Stunner missile firing units.

“Stunner will provide all-weather, hit-to-kill performance at a tactical missile price,” Booen said. “It totally redefines the performance/cost value equation for terminal missile defense.”