The Iron Dome aerial defense system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from Gaza toward Israel, as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Aug. 21, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen / File. – Finland is set to become the first foreign purchaser of Israel’s David’s Sling air defense system, the country’s defense minister announced on April 5.

The deal is worth some $347 million, and includes further options worth $237 million, according to a statement from the Finnish Defense Ministry.

The announcement came one day after the Nordic nation became the 31st member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

David’s Sling, developed by Rafael Advanced Defensive Systems together with US defense giant Raytheon, is designed to intercept ballistic missiles, UAVs, enemy planes and other aerial threats.

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“This acquisition will create a new capability for the Finnish Defence Forces to intercept targets at high altitude. At the same time we are continuing the ambitious and long-term development of Finland’s defence capability in a new security environment,” said Finland’s Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen.

According to a statement from Israel’s Defense Ministry, because the project was developed together with the United States, the export deal must get final approval from the US government.

“The Finnish government’s decision to acquire the David’s Sling system reflects the strong defense ties between our countries, as well as the cutting edge capabilities of Israel’s defense industries,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a statement released on April 6.

Gallant thanked Kaikkonen and the Finnish government for placing their trust in the Israeli system, adding, “I am confident that the cooperation between our countries will further enhance our readiness to respond to regional and global threats.”

Having signed the accession protocol to join NATO on July 2, 2022, Finland’s has become the fastest accession process in the treaty’s history.