The EADS LFK/Saab Bofors Dynamics-developed Taurus KEPD 350 cruise-missile will provide the German air force with a precision strike capability against fixed targets including command bunkers and national infrastructure sites, following its introduction to service in November.

To be integrated with the air force's current Panavia Tornado strike aircraft and its Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighters, the stealthy, subsonic Taurus airframe has a stand-off range of more than 350km (190nm).

In August 2002, Germany awarded LFK/Saab Bofors Dynamics joint venture Taurus Systems, in which the Swedish company holds a 33.3% stake, a €570 million ($675 million) order to produce 600 KEPD 350 weapons. It is poised to deliver first training rounds to the German air force from the middle of this year, and to hand over its first operational missiles in November. Final deliveries are expected in 2009.

Hopeful of following on from its German success, Taurus Systems says a further four countries are interested in the KEPD 350. Two of these - Spain and Sweden - have already conducted flight trials of the weapon with their Boeing F-18 and Saab/BAE Systems JAS39 Gripen fighters, and are believed to be nearing the selection of a stand-off-range missile system. Australia and Canada also have long-term requirements to acquire a weapon in the KEPD 350 class to meet part of their future long-range strike requirements, and have shown interest in the German-Swedish design.

Development testing of the KEPD 350 is now complete, following a successful system verification campaign flown over South Africa's Overberg test range earlier this year, when a Tornado trials aircraft from Germany's WTD-61 test unit dropped two missiles. This effort sought to prove the effectiveness of the weapon's mission planning system, flight profile and its 450kg (990lb) Mephisto dual-phase penetrating warhead. The latter was developed under a joint venture between LFK and France's Thales.

Conducted on 15 March, the first free-flight test was terminated after an engine sensor signal fault, but a subsequent flight on 18 March culminated with the destruction of a bunker target.

The missile's flight envelope demonstrated during the test campaign covered altitudes from less than 100ft (30m) up to 25,000ft, at speeds ranging between M0.67 and M0.95, says Taurus Systems.

Once fielded, the design will augment the Storm Shadow/Scalp EG/Apache family of weapons in service with, or on order for, NATO members France, Greece and the UK. Both types will be part of the weapons range promoted by MBDA, following LFK's planned integration with the expanded company late this year.

Source: Flight International