Nightjar takes flight

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The second and final phase of a six-year joint programme aimed at increasing UK design and manufacturing know-how for next generation aircraft has just been completed.

BAE Systems and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have completed the final phase of a six-year joint programme aimed at increasing


design and manufacturing knowledge for a new generation of aircraft.

According to BAE Systems, the data collected will be central to leading-edge programmes, including the £124m Taranis technology demonstrator programme recently announced as part of the UK Defence Industrial Strategy. BAE Systems is the industry lead and prime contractor of this joint project to develop a stealthy Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV).

The previously classified Nightjar programme began in 2000 and its testbody has been used to test new features, which could be crucial for the future of air vehicle design. The testbody was designed to have a very low radar signature so that technologies fitted on it could be tested without the body itself figuring in the test results.

The Nightjar programme provided valuable data on issues surrounding design, aerodynamics, manufacturing and in-service performance.

Mounted on the radar cross section (RCS) measurement facility at BAE Systems’ Warton site, the Nightjar testbody was subjected to a range of tests that provided vital data on air induction systems (intake and ducts) performance. In parallel, the team carried out a series of wind tunnel tests on the same designs to assess their performance and add to the overall understanding.

The MoD, Defence Procurement Agency and Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) have all acknowledged that being embedded within the Nightjar team was a major factor leading to the success of this programme.

Gary Carman, the MoD’s senior representative on the Nightjar programme commented: ‘The joint Nightjar programme has been absolutely invaluable in ensuring the funding available was spent on addressing the technology issues most important to us.

‘It has reduced a number of future risks and given us the knowledge base that will enable us to understand and deliver cost-effective solutions, in terms of technology trade offs, to meet the UK’s future requirements.’