What is the Taurus cruise missile that Germany might provide to Ukraine?

The German government is reportedly on the brink of supplying Ukraine with Taurus missiles, capable of targeting objectives up to 500 kilometers away. While the delivery of such a system might not be a game-changer on its own, an increase in missile deliveries could have a significant impact, especially if the United States decides to send ATACMS missiles.
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Taurus German Air-launched cruise missile (Picture source: MBDA )

Sources within the Social Democratic Party have revealed that the Chancellery is currently engaged in intensive negotiations to finalize this supply agreement. The German Air Force has given the green light for the provision of these powerful German-made Taurus missiles. In preparation for this strategic move, the Chancellor's Office recently received a comprehensive briefing from the Federal Ministry of Defense, outlining the essential aspects of these missiles, including their deployment within the Bundeswehr, associated risks, and overall effectiveness.

It's worth noting that this decision could also pave the way for the potential supply of American ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) missiles. A coordinated approach with the United States is deemed a crucial prerequisite for the German Chancellor's endorsement of new armament systems destined for Ukraine. While the Biden administration has refrained from providing ATACMS missiles to Ukraine thus far, there are signs that Washington's position might be changing.

The Taurus missile, since its introduction into service in 2005, has stood as a formidable air-launched cruise missile, representing the technological prowess of both Germany and Sweden. Developed by Taurus Systems GmbH, this precision weapon has found its place in the arsenals of several nations, including Germany itself, South Korea, and Spain.

The Taurus missile, boasting a length of 5.1 meters, a height of 0.805 meters, and a diameter of 1.080 meters, packs a punch with a warhead weighing in at 481 kg (1,060 lb). Known as MEPHISTO (multi-effect penetrator highly sophisticated and target optimized), this warhead is engineered for precise strikes, capable of devastating high-value targets with surgical precision. The missile's mass of 1,400 kg (3,100 lb) enables it to carry this powerful payload while maintaining the agility needed for effective deployment.

One of the standout features of the Taurus missile is its impressive operational range of 500 kilometers (310 miles). This extended reach allows it to engage targets that might be well beyond the scope of other conventional weapons, particularly in the Ukrainian context. Operating at low flight altitudes ranging from 30 to 70 meters (98 to 230 feet), the Taurus missile is designed to evade enemy radar detection.

The Taurus missile's engine, the Williams WJ38-15 turbofan, propels it at speeds ranging from Mach 0.60 to 0.95. To further enhance its accuracy, the missile employs a combination of guidance systems, including IBN (image-based navigation), INS (inertial navigation system), TRN (terrain-referenced navigation), and MIL-GPS (Global Positioning System).

In terms of launch platforms, the Taurus missile is integrated into various aircraft, including the Tornado, F/A-18, and F-15K. It has also been tested with aircraft such as the Gripen and Typhoon, showcasing its versatility and adaptability to a range of modern fighter jets. Additionally, the Ukrainians have demonstrated their ingenuity by adapting SCALP missiles to SU-24 aircraft.

The Taurus missile serves as the German counterpart to the Franco-British Storm Shadow missile (known as SCALP in France). The real advantage of this potential delivery would be the quantity of missiles that Ukraine would possess. While a single missile may not be a game-changer, the delivery of several hundred missiles could have a significant impact on the battlefield.

According to reports from Politico, President Biden is set to make an appeal to the US Congress on Thursday for the approval of a new arms package destined for Ukraine. The exact contents of this package remain uncertain, particularly whether it will include the ATACMS missiles that Kyiv has been persistently seeking for several months. This potential shift in the US stance adds an additional layer of complexity to the evolving situation. The impending decision by the German government, combined with the possibility of a change in the US position, underscores the critical juncture at which Ukraine finds itself.