The government of Ukraine placed a new weapon request from its Western ally, Germany—this time asking for the latter’s long-range Taurus cruise air-to-surface missiles.

According to Berlin’s defense ministry spokesperson, the country has recently received said request as Ukraine wraps up its preparation to launch a summer counteroffensive effort against advancing Russian forces.

Through the requested equipment, Ukrainian troops seek to take back a substantial number of territories Russia has taken since the latter invaded its neighbor in February 2022.

As the war enters its second summer, Ukraine remains grappling with bolstering its weakened air defense. It has been working on acquiring more long-range weapons to counterbalance the incessant bombardment of Russia. However, the West keeps sending short-range armaments and has hesitated to give in to the long-range requests for fear of escalation that could potentially drag the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the 15-month-old war. Training and logistics were also among those reasons.

War in Ukraine military situation as of 30 May 2023 (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

However, this policy has seen a noticeable change over the past few months. Britain became the first country to permit Ukraine to acquire long-range cruise missiles in May. While the United States has transferred the powerful M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to the war-torn region, it has refused to supply Ukraine with its 297-kilometer (185 miles) Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. The U.S. fears that Ukraine may employ these missiles to launch aggressive retaliations against Moscow, the capital of Russia.

Nevertheless, Britain has finally relented to Ukraine’s request and will soon provide its Storm Shadow missiles, which have a range of over 250 km (155 mi). However, Britain has obtained assurances from Ukraine that it will not use these low-observable, long-range weapons to target areas inside Russia. This could also be the case for Germany as it allows the transfer of its Taurus cruise missile, which can reach targets up to 500 km (310 mi).

Taurus Cruise Missile: Germany’s Versatile Weapon System

Built by Taurus Systems in the late 1990s and dubbed the KEPD 350, this long-range, precision-guided air-to-ground missile has been in service with the German Air Force since 2005. As mentioned, it is capable of striking targets as far as 500 km, enabling its operators to penetrate through hardened targets—using a warhead called Multi-Effect Penetrator Highly Sophisticated and Target Optimised (MEPHISTO)—thus making it a valuable asset to counterattack enemy command and control centers, air defenses, and other critical infrastructures.

The weapon system, which is co-developed by Sweden’s Saab, is powered by a turbofan engine, allowing itself to fly at speeds of up to Mach 0.95. Moreover, it features various navigation and guidance systems, including a GPS-based inertial navigation system and an advanced radar seeker. Each missile measures about 5.1 meters in length, 1.080 m in diameter, and has a wingspan of 2.064 m, with a payload weight of 481 kilograms (1,057 pounds). It can also be programmed to attack specific targets or fly a pre-determined route and can be launched via fighter aircraft’s Panavia Tornado, F/A-18 Hornets, and F-15K Strike Eagle. Additionally, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon qualified as capable cruise missile launchers.

The Taurus cruise missile, armed with a high-explosive blast fragmentation warhead, offers exceptional capability and versatility. Its precision and accuracy make it a valuable asset for Ukrainian troops, enabling them to effectively strike Russian targets with pinpoint accuracy.

Only Spain (bought about 45) and South Korea (planned to order 200 missiles) acquired and used Taurus KEPD 350 apart from Germany.

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Ukraine could potentially receive either of the available variants of the German cruise missile: the KEPD 350, the original variant; the Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM-ER), equipped with a larger warhead and a more extended range; and there’s also the KEPD 350K, which South Korea uses and is fitted with a Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module on its GPS receiver; and KEPD 350K-2, a smaller version for light fighters.

Second-largest Arms Supplier to Ukraine

Just behind America, Germany has become Ukraine’s second-biggest contributor of military aid since the onset of the Russian invasion.

A Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile, 2004. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite its initial reluctance to favor Ukraine, Germany announced earlier in May that it has revved up its military assistance package to Kyiv of about $3 billion, which will include dozens of anti-missiles, armored combat vehicles, surveillance drones, and the highly requested Leopard 1 main battle tanks, to name a few. The said budget will probably include the Taurus cruise missile.

Berlin has been tiptoeing around its opinion regarding Ukraine in the early days, aiming to avoid provoking Russia, its largest energy supplier with historical ties. However, as the war persists for months, Germany appears to have made up its mind and is now increasingly evident in supporting Ukraine in their efforts to turn back the Russian invaders.

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