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AS.34 Kormoran

Air-launched anti-ship missile

Kormoran anti-ship missile

Though not as great a commercial success as many other anti-ship missiles, the Kormoran is long-lived in operational service

 
 
Country of origin West Germany
Entered service 1973
Missile length 4.4 m
Missile diameter 0.34 m
Wing span 1 m
Missile weight 600 kg
Warhead weight 165 kg
Warhead type HE-FRAG
Range of fire 23 km

 

   The AS.34 Kormoran is an air-launched Anti-Ship Missile (AShM) developed and manufactured by MBB (now part of EADS) in Germany. It was purchased by the Bundesmarine and the Marina Militaire, who are so far the only other operators.

   Development of the Kormoran began in 1962, with MBB taking over the program in 1967. It was ultimately a decade before the West German government finally committed to the acquisition of the Kormoran, which entered service with the Bundesmarine in 1973. Another decade later in 1983, MBB initiated development of a radically modernized version of the Kormoran (which was dubbed the "Kormoran 2", with the existing weapon being re-named the "Kormoran 1"); work on this new missile proceeded quickly, and test flights began in 1986. Impressed by the Kormoran 2, the Bundesmarine adopted this missile as well, with the first deliveries commencing in 1991. As mentioned above, Italy also procured the Kormoran missile, but despite an aggressive marketing campaign by MBB (later EADS), no additional customers were forthcoming.

   The Kormoran's appearance is fairly unremarkable for a modern AShM, with a long, narrow, cylindrical fuselage, a steep, conical, and sharply-pointed nose, four short and steeply-swept delta fins in a crucifix pattern just aft of the midsection, and four small, swept trapezoid-shaped stabilizer halfway between the main fins and the tail. The base of the tail is flat, with two exhaust ports.

   The AS.34 Kormoran can only be launched from a fixed-wing aircraft, and to date, only F-104G Starfighters (now retired) and Tornado IDS' of the German and Italian armed forces have been equipped to carry and launch it. This missile has never been operationally fired from a surface launcher or a submarine, and given the age of the system, its short range, and its poor export prospects, it is doubtful that any such capability will ever be applied to this weapon.

   As with most AShMs, the AS.34 Kormoran is guided by an inertial navigation system upon launch, and shortly after locates, locks-onto, and homes into a surface target using active radar. This gives the missile a "fire-and-forget capability", allowing the launch aircraft to simply point the missile in the right direction, release it, and then make a beeline for friendly territory. The guidance of the Kormoran 2 is significantly improved, thanks to the addition of all-digital electronics, a more advanced seeker head, increased resistance to electronic countermeasures, and software upgrades that give it better target selection and homing intelligence.

   The warhead of the Kormoran is a High Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) munition suitable for disabling a small vessel, such as a frigate or a missile boat. Larger vessels such as destroyers or cruisers may require multiple missiles to defeat. The hardened nose and casing of the Kormoran allow it to penetrate hull plates up to 90 mm thick, allowing the warhead to penetrate into a ship's interior before it detonates in order to maximize the damage inflicted. The Kormoran 1 carries a 165 kg warhead, while the Kormoran 2 carries a larger 220 kg warhead.

   The propulsion system of the AS.34 Kormoran is a multi-national venture, with a booster manufactured in Germany by Bayern-Chemie, and a sustainer motor made in France by Aerospatiale. Unlike most contemporary AShMs, which have a rocket booster and a turbofan sustainer motor, both of these in the Kormoran are solid fuel rocket motors. These motors generally burn fuel much more rapidly than turbofans, and the model used in the Kormoran is not an exception. As a result, the missile's effective range is very short compared to a typical 21st century AShM, at only 23 km for the Kormoran 1 or 35 km for the Kormoran 2 (for example, the AGM-84D Harpoon has a range of 220 km).

   Despite its long tenure, the AS.34 Kormoran has to date never been launched in combat. Naturally, this owes much to the fact that the German and Italian navies never attacked any vessels with aircraft during or after the Cold War. What is more surprising is that the Kormoran has received relatively little attention, relative to much later sea-skimming AShMs like the Exocet and Harpoon.

   While the guidance, warhead, and flight performance of the AS.34 Kormoran are still viable, its limited utility (only the F-104G and Tornado IDS can launch it) and very short range have rendered this weapon largely obsolete. Current trends in warship, close-in weapon system, and naval air defense missile system design require an AShM with significantly greater range to remain competitive with naval threats. Though to date, neither Germany nor Italy have announced either a planned successor or an intended retirement date for the Kormoran.

 

Variants

 

   AS.34 Kormoran 1: Original production model.

   AS.34 Kormoran 2: Vastly improved version of the AS.34 Kormoran 1, with new propulsion, guidance, and a much larger warhead. This missile has a launch weight of 630 kg, carries a 220 kg warhead and has a range of 35 km. The guidance of the Kormoran 2 is significantly improved, thanks to the addition of all-digital electronics, a more advanced seeker head, increased resistance to electronic countermeasures, and software upgrades that give it better target selection and homing intelligence. Deliveries of the Kormoran 2 commenced in 1991.

 

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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Kormoran anti-ship missile

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