Drones

Details of successful first test flight of Taranis UCAV demonstrator revealed

Details of successful first te...
The Taranis test flight was at an undisclosed location outside the UK
The Taranis test flight was at an undisclosed location outside the UK
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Diagram of a Taranis test flight
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Diagram of a Taranis test flight
Neil Dawson, pilot of Taranis' first flight
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Neil Dawson, pilot of Taranis' first flight
Flight test commander Bob Fraser
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Flight test commander Bob Fraser
Taranis in Warton in Lancashire
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Taranis in Warton in Lancashire
Tranisis' first flight lasted 15 minutes
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Tranisis' first flight lasted 15 minutes
The Taranis test flight was at an undisclosed location outside the UK
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The Taranis test flight was at an undisclosed location outside the UK
The purpose of Taranis is as a technology demonstrator
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The purpose of Taranis is as a technology demonstrator
Taranis testing in Warton in Lancashire
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Taranis testing in Warton in Lancashire
Taranis taxiing
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Taranis taxiing
Taranis will help the RAF determine the mix of manned and unmanned combat aircraft
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Taranis will help the RAF determine the mix of manned and unmanned combat aircraft
Taranis is about the size of a Hawk fighter
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Taranis is about the size of a Hawk fighter
Taranis undergoing ground tests
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Taranis undergoing ground tests
Mr Philip Dunne MP
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Mr Philip Dunne MP
Some of Taranis' flight tests lasted an hour
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Some of Taranis' flight tests lasted an hour
View gallery - 14 images

The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) and BAE Systems this week announced details of last year's first test flight of the Taranis unmanned combat demonstrator aircraft, which BAE bills as the "most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers." The 15-minute test flight took place at an undisclosed location outside of the UK on August 10, 2013 as part of a project to show the UK’s ability to create a unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) capable of surveillance, targeting, intelligence gathering, deterrence, and strikes in hostile territory.

One of Britain’s most closely guarded military secrets, Taranis has been sheathed in secrecy from the start with access to it and its technology strictly limited. Even getting a good look at it has been difficult as BAE explains that many aspects of the craft’s technology, shape, design, and even finish, remain classified, as does any exact information on its performance. However, at a press briefing on Monday, BAE and the MoD said that Taranis "surpassed all expectations" during the flight tests.

First unveiled to the public in July 2010, the top-secret drone is the product of 250 British companies led by BAE and partners including Rolls-Royce, the Systems division of GE Aviation, QinetiQ, and MoD military staff. Named after the Celtic god of thunder, it is about the size of a Hawk fighter with a 10 m (33 ft) wingspan, and boasts state-of-the-art stealth, propulsion, and aerospace technology. It’s been under development since 2006, has consumed £185 million (US$300 million) in public and private funds, and one-and-a-half-million man hours.

The Taranis test flight was at an undisclosed location outside the UK
The Taranis test flight was at an undisclosed location outside the UK

August’s tests were carried out under the command of BAE Systems’ test pilot Bob Fraser with piloting by Neil Dawson. During the 15-minute maiden flight, Taranis made a perfect take-off, rotation, climb-out and landing. Other flights of up to one-hour's duration at various altitudes and speeds followed.

These flights were proceeded by earlier static power tests, unmanned pilot training, radar cross section measurements, and ground station system integration carried out at BAE’s military aircraft factory at Warton in Lancashire. The Taranis and its ground station were then shipped to the overseas test location for a series of high speed taxi tests in July before its maiden flight.

The purpose of Taranis is as a technology demonstrator
The purpose of Taranis is as a technology demonstrator

Taranis was designed to demonstrate that the UK has the required knowledge and expertise to produce an unmanned combat aircraft that could one day conduct precision strikes over a long range whilst remaining undetected. BAE says that Taranis will help the MoD and the Royal Air Force to decide on how to mix manned and unmanned fast jets in a combat role as part of Britain’s defenses.

"Taranis is providing vital insights that will help shape future capabilities for our Armed Forces in coming decades," said Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology. "Its advanced technology is testament to the UK’s world leading engineering skills that keep Britain at the cutting edge of defense."

The video below features the Taranis test flight.

Source: BAE Systems

View gallery - 14 images
24 comments
ChairmanLMAO
just a little to obvious if they called it the Tyrannus
Anne Ominous
What an unfortunate choice of name.
Tar"a*nis\, n. [L. taranis, from the Celtic; cf. W. & Corn. taran thunder.] (Myth.) A Celtic divinity, regarded as the evil principle, but confounded by the Romans with Jupiter.
Mel Tisdale
One wonders at exactly what threats there are out in the big outside world that necessitates such an expenditure. If the enemy is a large one, the U.K. is not going to fight the good fight on its own, that's why it is a member of NATO. And anyway, a large enemy is almost guaranteed to be equipped with nuclear weapons, either overtly or covertly.
If the enemy is a small one, we have Trident, which without any warheads can be equipped with sufficient technology to place all of its 60,000 kilos travelling at 15,000 mph on any target with extreme precision. That would release sufficient energy to do a great deal of damage. That should be sufficient to bring the parties to any conflict situation to the negotiating table. And if not, then put a warhead on one. Or would that give the lie to the idea that nuclear weapons are a deterrent.
In short, the U.K. has better uses for its money than on designing and developing killing machines like this weapon. When it ceases to have large numbers of people needing food banks, when it has enough money to bring the National Health Service back to its past glory, when its people can be said to be generally happy with their lot and not living in dread of becoming homeless or living in dread of the next energy bills, then, and only then, will it make sense to spend money on projects such as this. It already spends more than is sensible on defence.
Britain needs to realise that its Empire is over - it really is about time.
Scott Nicolson
I'll bet good money the testing facility was Woomera.
steveraxx
Fantastic, the killing robots have arrived. Coupled with all the advanced manufacturing robots which are eliminating good-paying human jobs, a keen time to be a man.
Phillip Noe
What a waste of resources! While our only habitat is deteriorating the war machine pushes for more and more of these high-tech gadgets. It just doesn't add up. Without a healthy habitat nothing else matters. If the funds that are spent on keeping us on a war footing were invested in shifting to sustainable generation and use of energy we could solve the climate change crisis and stop putting our future generations at risk.
Len Simpson
The F35 is now obsolete
StWils
Mel, first, Great Britain is not Denmark, or some small county only known of by the few people living the next few towns over. Second, the short & simple is that having more flexibility is always better than having less. Third, firing off Tridents is pricey. Also these aircraft are very hard to shoot down, hence they typically should a very good combat lifespan. Fourth, security today is based upon collective security principals first defined by President Wilson. Rejecting those collective security principals is one of the leading reasons for WWII. Is there really a good reason to relearn that lesson?
ezeflyer
The Rise of the Machines.
James P Pratt
Give a good fighter pilot an F-22 and put five of these drones in the sky and the pilot will become an ace-in-a-day. The most important aspect of dog fighting is situational awareness and sitting at a computer monitor is rather limited compared to actually being in the environment.