BERLIN (Reuters) -The German government is in talks with arms maker MBDA about the delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, a security source told Reuters on Friday, echoing a report by Spiegel magazine.
Kyiv has been pushing Berlin to supply it with the Taurus, a missile with a range of more than 500 km (311 miles) that is launched by fighter jets such as the Tornado, the F-15 or the F-18. Berlin has held back amid concern over the long range of the weapon and its potential use against targets inside Russia.
A German government spokesperson told Reuters the government had no update to its position.
“Germany is focusing on heavy artillery, armored vehicles and air defense systems. There is no new information on the Taurus cruise missile,” said the spokesperson.
Cruise missiles are hard to detect by air defence radars as they fly at low altitudes. They are mainly used to hit high-value targets behind enemy lines such as command bunkers, ammunitions and fuel dumps, airfields and bridges.
Britain and France have supplied Ukraine with Storm Shadow and Scalp cruise missiles, and Ukraine’s military has said it had adapted Soviet-made aircraft to use them. However, the United States has so far refrained from sending its ATACMS to Ukraine despite requests by Kyiv.
Technically, it is very easy to limit the range of a Taurus cruise missile, according to experts.
The talks between the German government and MBDA are focusing on such a modification, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to prevent at all costs any Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory with the weapon, Spiegel reported.
In June, the Kremlin warned France and Germany that delivering cruise missiles to Kyiv would lead to a further round of “spiralling tension” in the Ukraine conflict.
Russia has been using long-range missiles to destroy targets in Ukraine including civilian infrastructure, and Ukraine has no easy way to respond to that.
The German military has some 600 Taurus missiles in its inventories, with some 150 among them ready for use, according to media reports. Spain and South Korea also operate the Taurus.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Andreas Rinke, Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Friederike Heine, Mark Potter and Philippa Fletcher)