Ukraine has asked Germany to supply it with long-range Taurus cruise missiles capable of hitting Moscow.
Volodymyr Zelensky requested the missiles, designed to destroy heavily fortified, “high-value” enemy targets, during his trip to Berlin earlier in May, according to German media.
He reportedly used Ukraine’s supplies of Storm Shadow cruise missiles from Britain, which have a slightly shorter range of around 215 miles, to put pressure on Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor. Ukraine has used Storm Shadow to strike Russian supply depots and command posts deep behind the frontline in occupied territory since May.
The Taurus missile can deliver a warhead weighing nearly half a tonne, roughly the same as the Storm Shadow, against a fortified target up to 310 miles away. Moscow lies 280 miles from the border with Ukraine.
Mattia Nelles, a German political scientist who advises German MPs on Ukraine, said that although Ukraine has promised not to strike targets inside Russia, this extra range worried Germany’s leadership.
“There are unresolved questions regarding sharing sensitive targeting data and more importantly the political question of whether the German government is willing to provide Ukraine with potent weapons with which it could strike Moscow,” he said.
The Swedish-German-designed and built missile is considered to be at the cutting edge of conventional missile design.
Saab Bofors Dynamics, the Swedish weapons manufacturer, teamed up with MBDA Deutschland to design the Taurus missile. It described it as an “incomparable modular stand-off missile system”.
“It is capable of precision strikes on stationary and semi-stationary targets, including bunkers and other hardened, deeply buried targets, as well as high-value point and area targets, such as large radar stations,” it said.
Taurus missiles were first manufactured in 2005. Germany bought more of them and the Spanish and South Korean air forces have also placed orders for the weapons.
After it is launched, two stabilising wings are deployed which help the hulking Taurus missile fly towards its target at a relatively low altitude.
Germany had initially been uneasy about supplying Ukraine with weapons, but pressured by increasingly heavyweight British and US supplies, it has steadily relented and has now sent Leopard tanks and a Patriot missile defence system.
The West has increased the technological levels of its weapon supplies to Ukraine. This month, Ukraine’s allies said they would start training Ukrainian pilots on F16 fighter jets.