The South Korean military has signed a contract to purchase 90 KEPD 350 'Taurus' long range air to ground missiles, which will give its Air Force valuable strike capabilities against fortified enemy emplacements. Taurus missiles are considered invaluable asset in a potential war with North Korea give the coutnry's extensive use of bunkers and underground fortifications to protect its military assets. Nuclear facilities, missile sites, command centres and radar installations are among the targets known to be heavily fortified by North Korea - leaving them near invulnerable to attacks by unspecialised lighter air to ground munitions. With a range of over 500km the missiles allow aircraft to target facilities across North Korea without leaving their own airspace - remaining safely out of range of the majority of the north's air defences. The missiles carry a 481kg warhead and are ideal for penetrating heavily fortified installations.
The order for new Taurus missiles comes despite a reduction in tensions on the Korean Peninsula and a detente between the two Koreas. Strengthening its strike capabilities demonstrated Seoul's resolve to keep its military combat ready regardless of political circumstances, though whether Pyongyang will respond in any way, possibly with a small weapons test of its own, remains to be seen. Missiles will be fitted on F-15K strike fighters, advanced variants of the U.S. F-15E tailored to South Korea's defence needs, which with their high payloads and sophisticated radars and avionics are ideal platforms from which to deploy the Taurus missiles.
Taurus missiles are considered key to any plans for a pre emotive strike on North Korean military facilities, particularly in the early stages of the war where it will be imperative for the South Korean military to preemptively destroy as many missile launch sites and command centres as possible. Such missiles are also particularly critical to any operational plan to gain access to North Korean airspace, as the north operates one of the most heavily fortified surface to air missile (SAM) networks in the world making its launchers and radar systems extremely survivable against lighter munitions. Indeed, considering the quantity of North Korea's estimated surface to air missile launch sites, it is highly doubtful that South Korea's military has enough bunker busting missiles to sufficiently weaken the north's SAM network even if the country's entire Taurus missile arsenal were put to this task. The missiles are among the most expensive strike platforms in the world, costing approximately â‚¬1 million each. Produced jointly by Germany and Swedish manufacturers, the missiles are today in service only in South Korea, Germany and Spain. South Korea previously placed an order for 170 missiles in 2013, and Seoul has now sought to expand its arsenal.