Encyclopedia Astronautica
Taurus RGM-59

American tactical ballistic missile to provide US Navy ships with a long range surface-to-surface capability. Development began 1961; cancelled 1965.

In the late 1950's the US Navy lost its long-range bombardment capability when the battleships with their 16-inch guns were retired. Studies began in August 1961 and led to definition of the Taurus missile in 1963 to return this capability to the fleet. Taurus was to fit on existing shipboard Terrier SAM launchers, be relatively inexpensive, and carry a 450 kg (1,000 lb) warhead to targets at ranges up to 93 km (50 nm) with a CEP of 190 m (210 yards). Use of a radio beacon activated by troops on the ground near the target would increase the CEP to 27 m (30 yards). The project was cancelled in 1965 before tests could begin, and the Navy remained without a long-range surface-to-surface capability until the Tomahawk cruise missile was deployed in 1986.

Maximum range: 93 km (57 mi).

Historical Essay © Andreas Parsch

APL RGM-59 Taurus

With the demise of its big-gun cruiser and battleship fleet in the 1950s, the U.S. Navy looked for a replacement weapon for providing ship-to-shore fire support for landing troops. The LFSW (Landing Force Support Weapon) requirement of August 1961 called for a non-nuclear missile to be used against unprotected troops and unarmoured vehicles. The requirement called for missiles with ranges up to 55 km (30 nm) for beach assaults, and ultimately up to 370 km (200 nm) for long-range fire support. The efficiency of the LFSW against the intended targets was to be at least as good as guns and unguided rockets.

The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), which had also developed the U.S. Navy's surface-to-air missiles, studied numerous types of warheads, missile sizes, and guidance systems to determine the best design to fulfill the requirements. All-inertial guidance was potentially accurate, but would always suffer from errors in the determination of the positions of the target and the launching ship. Electro-optical (TV) guidance, then a new and promising option for missile homing, was impractical, because the intended targets did not usually present sufficient optical contrast. APL eventually decided for a simple and inexpensive inertial navigation system for midcourse guidance, with terminal accuracy provided by a missile tracking beacon pointed at the target by the forward troops. APL's design was named Taurus, and the designation ZRGM-59A was allocated in June 1963.

By 1964, the planned characteristics of the ZRGM-59A had been established in some detail. The Taurus was to fit on existing Terrier launchers, have a range between 31 km (17 nm) and 93 km (50 nm), and carry a 450 kg (1000 lb) warhead. The CEP of the missile was expected to be 190 m (210 yds) with inertial-only guidance, and 27 m (30 yds) with the forward homing beacon system. The Taurus design featured a Terrier-sized solid-fueled rocket booster, and an unpowered tail-controlled missile.

Initial tests of the inertial guidance system aboard U.S. Army MGM-29 Sergeant missiles were planned for early 1965. However, Taurus was effectively cancelled that year, with no hardware having been built. A few other proposals were made for an LFSW, including a naval version of the Army's MGM-52 Lance, but these came to nothing. The U.S. Navy did not have any long-range shipborne tactical ground attack missiles until the introduction of the conventionally-armed versions of the RGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile.


Except for the range and warhead data given in the main text, I have no data about the physical characteristics of the planned ZRGM-59A missile.

Main Sources

[1] Norman Friedman: "US Naval Weapons", Conway Maritime Press, 1983

AKA: RGM-59; Taurus.
Status: Cancelled 1969.

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Associated Countries
See also
  • missile Guided self-propelled military weapon (as opposed to rocket, an unguided self-propelled weapon). More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • APL American manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, MD, Laurel, Maryland, USA. More...

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