Andrew Doyle/MUNICH Andrea Nativi/GENOA

Italy has selected the Matra BAe Dynamics Storm Shadow for its modular stand-off missile requirement, dealing a blow to the rival German-Swedish Taurus KEPD 350 programme.

The Italian air force decision, approved by the defence ministry, has sparked a last-ditch lobbying effort by Germany, which is trying to persuade the Italian Government to reconsider the purchase.

The decision also comes as a major disappointment for Alenia which had hoped to participate as a risk-sharing partner in the Taurus development programme. A total of 300 missiles is required for the Italian air force's Panavia Tornados and, eventually, Eurofighter Typhoons, although funding will initially only be available for two-thirds of this number.

Italian military sources say the Storm Shadow was favoured because of its earlier availability (the missile is in the production phase), coupled with its perceived lower level of technical risk and guaranteed pricing.

On the operational side, France and the UK will help Italy set up the complex planning systems required to deploy the missiles, and France will make available Helios satellite data to assist the Italians with targeting.

Italian industry will manufacture various parts for Storm Shadow, and will also be responsible for developing the training variant of the weapon.

DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa) missiles subsidiary LFK, which heads the Taurus project, says: "Our information is that there are discussions between the German and Italian governments but there is no decision." Dasa has a 67% stake in Taurus, with Sweden's Celsius/Bofors Missiles holding the remainder.

Matra BAe, which owns a 30% stake in LFK, confirms only that it has offered Italy industrial participation in the Storm Shadow and other missile programmes.

The Storm Shadow will be deployed by the UK Royal Air Force on its Eurofighters, Tornados and British Aerospace Harriers, while the French version, known as the Scalp/EG, will be used on the Dassault Rafale and Mirage 2000.

The Taurus KEPD 350 is being developed under a German defence procurement office contract and is to be deployed on German air force Tornados in late 2002, although the purchase has yet to be approved by the German parliament.

Source: Flight International