BAE uncloaks unmanned combat aircraft

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has uncloaked an advanced unmanned combat aircraft prototype.

Named after the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis will be used to help British engineers develop a fully-functioning, autonomous stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) capable of precisely striking targets at long-range.

“Taranis has been three and a half years in the making and is the product of more than a million man-hours. It represents a significant step forward in this country’s fast-jet capability,” explained BAE spokesperson Nigel Whitehead.

“The Taranis prototype will provide the UK MoD with critical knowledge on the technical and

manufacturing challenges and the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.”

According to Whitehead, the Taranis project was originally based on BAE’s Raven program – which successfully demonstrated an in-flight autonomous system using a configuration similar to the one proposed for Taranis.

“Building on the success of the Raven program, Taranis aims to push the boundaries by providing advancements in low observability capability and autonomous mission systems operations demonstrating the feasibility and utility of UAVs,” said Whitehead.

He added that initial ground-based testing for Taranis had kicked off earlier this year, with flight trials expected to commence in 2011.

Taranis – jointly funded by the UK MoD & Industry – is an informal partnership between a number of defense heavyweights, including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.

As prime contractor, BAE will provide many elements of the Taranis technology demonstrator, including low observability, systems integration, control infrastructure and full autonomy elements in partnership with QinetiQ.