The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a prototype of Taranis unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

The prototype will provide the MoD with critical knowledge on the technical and manufacturing challenges and the potential capabilities of UCAV systems.

The Taranis UCAV will be capable of precisely striking targets at long range, including in another continent.

BAE Systems Programmes and Support business group managing director Nigel Whitehead said Taranis was a significant step forward in the UK’s fast-jet capability.

Taranis has been developed by the UK MoD in partnership with BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.

Flight trials for the UCAV will begin in 2011.