Less than a year after entering operational service with the German air force, Taurus Systems’ KEPD 350 cruise missile is being lined up for capability enhancements.

Future develoments of the 1,400kg (3,100lb) weapon now under consideration include a reduced mass 350L version suitable for carriage by small fighter aircraft such as Lockheed Martin’s F-16, and a containerised variant intended for booster-assisted launch from ships, fixed land sites or trucks, says Taurus Systems business development executive Ulf Albinsson.

The EADS LFK/Saab Bofors Dynamics joint venture has identified as near-term growth priorities the addition of a two-way datalink to enable the more than 500km (270nm)-range weapon to relay infrared reconnaissance images while en route to its intended target, and battle damage assessment information during its terminal attack phase. The datalink could also be used to provide a new mission abort capability, says Albinsson, who adds that other growth targets include the integration of modular payload and multiple warhead packages and an enhanced mission control system.

Other future applications being studied by Taurus include release from a maritime patrol aircraft such as a Lockheed P-3 for anti-ship missions, or from the cargo hold of a transport aircraft, Albinsson says.

Armed with a dual-charge Mephisto penetrating warhead, the current KEPD 350 design has been identified as being suitable for use against more than 50 target types, its manufacturer says, including fixed infrastructure sites such as runways and bridges. The weapon can also be employed against “soft” targets using its air-burst setting.

The German air force took delivery of its first of 600 KEPD 350 missiles in November 2005, while Spain has also signed a contract to acquire an initial 43 weapons.

Source: Flight International