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Taranis test flights to inform design of future combat aircraft

The most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers has successfully completed its first flights.

Taranis, an unmanned aerial combat vehicle designed and built by a team comprising BAE Systems, Qinetiq, GE Aviation, Rolls-Royce, and DE&S, was flown for the first time at an undisclosed test range on Saturday 10th August 2013.

Made possible with joint funding worth £185m from industry and the Ministry of Defence, the stealthy unmanned combat system has been designed to demonstrate the feasibility of a long-range unmanned aircraft capable of precision strikes, plus sustained surveillance, marking targets, and intelligence gathering.

Taranis taxiing at BAE Systems, Warton, Lanacashire

Source: BAE Systems

Taranis taxiing at BAE Systems, Warton, Lancs

‘This is the most advanced air system yet conceived, designed and built in the UK and its vitally important for the future of both UK air defence and the UK defence industry,’ said Philip Dunne, minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology.

Piloted by BAE Systems’ test pilot Bob Fraser, Taranis is said to have made a perfect take-off, rotation, ‘climb-out’ and landing on its first 15 minute flight. According to BAE Systems, a number of flights took place in 2013, of up to one hour in duration and at a variety of altitudes and speeds. 

News that Taranis had made its initial flights was announced today at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.

Speaking at the event, Philip Dunne, minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology said: ‘We’re already thinking about what technology developments might follow [the 5th generation Joint Strike Fighter]

‘Those aircraft may need to operate in contested airspace behind enemy lines. They may be unmanned but the technology we’ve gained on the Taranis technology demonstrator keeps the UK in a strong position as we tackle that challenge, particularly in developing technologies such as low observability. 

‘The evidence gained from the flights so far is already helping to inform future combat aircraft capability.’

Source: BAE Systems

The most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers has successfully completed its first flights

Taranis was built with the help of 250 UK companies and will help inform future decisions on the future mix of manned and unmanned fast jet aircraft in theatre.

BAE Systems said in a statement that initial ground testing commenced in 2010 at its facility in Warton, followed by a programme of pre-first flight milestones including unmanned pilot training, radar cross section measurements, ground station system integration and taxi trials.

The aircraft and its ground station were then shipped from Warton to the test-range before being re-assembled and being subject to systems and diagnostics checks. Taranis then made a number of high speed taxi tests in July before its maiden flight in August 2013.


Source: BAE Systems

Taranis will help inform future decisions on the future mix of manned and unmanned fast jet aircraft in theatre



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Readers' comments (7)

  • The future becomes the present, Mach 3's fly themselves.

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  • Looks surprisingly like the "US drone" shot down by the Iranians a couple of years ago

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  • When we talk about advanced we need to look at TSR2 and the Harrier. These were built when we did our own development not a swift pilotless copy of the Stealth program. If you want proof of how advanced the other two aircraft are the first was sold out and destroyed so that the Americans would be fairly competitive in the marketplace, the second, when scrapped by the British Government was bought up lock stock and barrel by the Americans because they never had and probably never will have the technology to create such a fine and useful aircraft as the Harrier. To the British government the Typhoon is the 'perfect' replacement for the Harrier as it is in their eyes just as capable!

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  • The level of advancement is not promising, it still stands on rubber wheels. Are there any work on application of maglev tech. to aircrafts? Is it possible to use this tech. for wheelless aircrafts that can safer land and take off on a special magnetic field pist?

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  • While I agree 100% with Dan Yates, lets not knock what might be the beginning of a part-British re-awakening. OK, so I am an optimist, even though I know that we will probably give all we learn to the Yanks, or the French.

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  • In response to Melih above. Rubber wheels yes. Take these away and you severely limit the usable airfields globally.

    Even with present technologies you would be surprised at the logistics of 'away from base' operations even for short periods with standard military aircraft.

    A two week deployment of some Tornado GR4s to a NATO excercise required 12, 40 foot shipping containers sent by sea two military freight aircraft full of equipment and 1 passenger aircraft! If you add to that a maglev system big enough to accommodate takeoff run of a fully laden aircraft (unmanned or not) it becomes impossible logistically.

    An additional thought with the maglev idea, while good for take off / landing possibly, how do you move the aircraft around the airfield and hanger storage space. How is it maintained unless the aircraft side of the maglev was passive? Just thoughts from a former military aircraft engineer.

    Granted undercarriage is heavy and consumes a lot of space, and is incidentally fairly complex when steering, braking, anti-skid etc is considered but it does provide global airfield compatibility.

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  • The Mag lev idea could be useful on Aircraft carriers and even large warships like Destroyers and Frigates. Mag lev/ Rail gun Technology could be used to accelerate heavily laden (Fuel and Stores) Drones into the air from the flight deck or even from the sides of a destroyer. The recovery of such onto a aircraft carrier which is primarily the aim of a Carrier aircraft would be no more more problematic than any other carrier bourne aircraft, and bearing in mind the special requirements of a carrier a magnetic cradle might even be a better solution than an arrestor hook, 12" of rubber and a good damper. RN stations could be fitted with this technology too. Maybe with destroyer launched aircraft we could return to the WWII Convoy system where the aircraft was recovered from the sea, it could be parachuted into the sea and collected by crane

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