Country of origin
Range of fire
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
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).
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
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 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
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.
publish your own articles? Visit our
guidelines for more information.