Espreso. Global

Ukraine’s pursuit of Germany’s Taurus: advantages, disadvantages and alternatives

29 April, 2024 Monday
12:48

This week, amidst the approval of US aid to Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated his stance on withholding Taurus missiles from Kyiv, despite Ukraine's prolonged pursuit of these weapons. But is the focus on Taurus justified, and are they truly indispensable?

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Oleksandr Kovalenko, a military and political observer, shared his opinions on the Taurus missile’s relevance for Ukraine.

Taurus missiles, officially known as KEPD-150/350 (Kinetic Energy Penetrating Destroyer), are designed for long-distance destruction of heavily fortified bunkers. These missiles have a range of up to 500 km, although export versions are limited to 300 km. It's essential to understand that all missile exports are capped at 300 km, a universal standard upheld by exporting countries.

The Taurus missile, a joint German-Swedish endeavor, shares functionality with the Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG. Essentially, it's a subsonic air-to-surface cruise missile with various warhead configurations, enabling it to target concentrations of personnel or fortified structures.

“However, the Taurus is not a unique weapon deserving of special treatment from Olaf Scholz. The real question is, why? The answer lies in the limited availability of both Taurus and Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG missiles. While they could complement each other for systematic strikes on Russian targets, there's a significant caveat with Taurus that often goes unmentioned,” the expert says.

Taurus was designed for use with a restricted number of aircraft carriers, unlike Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG, which has been integrated into various Ukrainian frontline bombers and weapons systems provided by allies. For instance, the Su-24 bomber requires extensive modernization to accommodate Taurus missiles effectively, a process fraught with uncertainties regarding its efficacy and quality.

Even newly acquired F-16s by Ukraine cannot seamlessly carry Taurus missiles without prior modifications. The list of aircraft capable of carrying Taurus without complications includes the Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Panavia Tornado, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18, and Eurofighter Typhoon. However, Ukraine has no plans to acquire any of these aircraft models, despite considering the Saab JAS 39 Gripen as a potential light fighter option.

This makes the practical feasibility of incorporating Taurus missiles into Ukraine's arsenal is far from straightforward, leaving a myriad of questions. Specifically, if Germany were to provide them to Ukraine tomorrow, what would we use to deploy them?

The Alternative

While Storm Shadow and SCALP-EG are more or less compatible with the aircraft Ukraine currently possesses, let's shift the focus to the F-16. These fighters boast two intriguing weapons in their arsenal: the subsonic air-to-surface cruise missile AGM-158 JASSM and the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon, a guided air bomb with a range of 100 to 500 km.

The AGM-158 JASSM serves the same purpose as Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG and Taurus, minus the need for modernization. They can seamlessly integrate onto F-16s and be deployed against enemy targets.

On the other hand, the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon, based on the armor-piercing WDU-42/B, offers a basic range of 130 km, extendable to over 500 km with a jet engine. Over 25,000 of these munitions have been supplied to the US Army.

Thus, the F-16, if requested, can arrive in Ukraine armed with weapons that not only match but surpass the capabilities of Taurus, both quantitatively and qualitatively. 

“It's evident that Taurus is not the sole weapon deserving of our attention. Especially when considering the prospective deliveries of F-16s and the ample opportunities to requisition appropriate armaments from the United States,” the expert believes.

In this context, it's worth mentioning the Turkish SOM missile, compatible with the F-16, or the Taiwanese "God's Axe" missiles, also known as the Wan Chien or 萬劍.

The world offers not only global alternatives but also options from countries that stand in support of Ukraine, making Taurus just one piece of the puzzle.

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