Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

The German parliamentary defence committee has decided to back the air force's modular-stand-off weapon (MAW) requirement. The project will now go ahead, based around the Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Dasa)/ Bofors Taurus KEPD 350 weapon.

The defence ministry confirms that the programme-definition phase will be completed this year, after which work will begin on a development contract.

A decision to proceed with the next phase is also expected to be made by the end of the year, says the ministry, adding that Germany will go ahead with the programme in a European partnership.

No partners have yet been named, but Manfred Küsters, Taurus programme manager at Dasa missiles subsidiary LFK, says that "great interest" has been shown in the weapon by Italy and Sweden, as well as by the Royal Australian Air Force. "Recent operational- and cost-effectiveness evaluations of available and planned stand-off missiles performed by several European air forces have proved the Taurus KEPD 350 to be an excellent solution," says Küsters.

In the run-up to the unveiling of Germany's 1998 budget plan on 11 July, fears have been expressed that the MAW programme may be dropped because of pressure on Germany to find money to proceed with the Eurofighter EF2000 programme. While the budget had still not been confirmed at the time of going to press, political sources in Bonn say that it seems that 1998 funding has been secured.

The Taurus KEPD350 - the Kinetic Energy Penetrating Destroyer - is designed to attack point and area targets. The German air force wants 600 such weapons from 2002, to arm its Panavia Tornados and its EF2000s.

Dasa says that smaller versions of the 5m-long, 1,300kg missile are being planned to arm the Saab JAS39 Gripen and the AMX International AMX. The weapon will also be cleared for use on the Lockheed Martin F-16, McDonnell Douglas F-18 and General Dynamics F-111.

LFK says that the programme will continue, despite Dasa's recently announced intention to sell 30% of its missiles unit to Matra. This would link the German company with Matra BAe Dynamics, which is developing its own Apache EG/Storm Shadow missile to meet French and UK stand-off requirements.

According to Dasa, the companies intend to continue developing both missiles in parallel, and there is a possibility that some Taurus technology will be integrated into the Storm Shadow.

The Taurus KEPD350 has already successfully undergone captive flight trials on a German air force Tornado.

Source: Flight International