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Why the delivery of German Taurus missiles raises concerns

Unlike Britain and France, Germany is hesitant to supply its cruise missiles due to the capacity of their fuzes, Politico reports.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s hesitancy to supply high-powered munitions has displeased Kyiv, but with valid reasons.

The missiles of the leading European countries are virtually identical in performance: they are launched from fighter jets; Storm Shadow/SCALP weighs 1,300 kilograms and Taurus is only 100 kilograms heavier. They have the same range of about 500 kilometres and very similar warheads.

Despite this, Germany, unlike its counterparts, did not agree to send the missiles, as confirmed by Defence Minister Boris Pistorius.

Fabian Hoffmann, a doctoral research fellow and missile expert at the University of Oslo, cited the Taurus fuse as the reason for Germany’s refusal to supply this type of munition.

The Storm Shadow/SCALP BROACH warheads use a Multi-Application Fuze Initiation System (MAFIS), whose main feature is the manual setting of the delay between impact and warhead detonation.

The Taurus warhead, called MEPHISTO, features a PIMPF (Programmable Intelligent Multi-Purpose Fuze) fuze that can recognise layers of material and voids to effectively destroy layered and buried targets.

“One missile equipped with a void sensing & layer counting fuze can therefore cause the damage that previously could only be achieved with two or more accurately dropped bombs.”

Hoffmann added that such missiles would allow Ukraine to launch effective strikes on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to the rest of Russia.

Scholz does not want to supply the Taurus as destroying the bridge, a key target for Kyiv, could lead to an “escalation of the war,” making Germany the part of a military conflict.

Another concern is the need to provide topographic target mapping data programmed into Taurus guidance systems by Germany. Ukraine will need additional time to train its soldiers and collect geodata, according to Gustav C. Gressel, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Ukraine would need more geodata for launching Taurus than for SCALP or Storm Shadow.

Hoffmann, however, does not believe that helping Ukraine with mapping could lead to escalation, noting that much of the topographic data needed for the Taurus contour mapping system is publicly available.

Germany is additionally anxious that the Taurus could fall into the hands of Russian soldiers, as Berlin intends to use this type of missile until mid-century, with periodic upgrading.

“Taurus is the only real deep strike means Germany has. Russians would get to know and counter Taurus. Or worse, a Taurus may crash unexploded and unharmed somewhere and Russians start to reverse-engineer it.”

The Taurus is of particular interest to Russia because the missiles are designed specifically to counter Russian air defence systems such as the Pantsir and S-400.

However, despite the concerns, Scholz is under increasing pressure to agree to the supply. Senior lawmakers on the Bundestag’s Defence Committee and in Scholz’s Social Democratic Party are urging him to “immediately” change his stance.

The USA is already supplying Ukraine with ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles. Previously, Germany declared that it would not deliver the Taurus until the USA sent its own missiles.


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