BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) have confirmed the first test flights of the Taranis stealthy unmanned combat vehicle demonstrator at an undisclosed test range during a briefing held in London, UK. Piloted by BAE test pilot Bob Fraser, the demonstrator aircraft made a perfect take-off, rotation, climb-out and landing during the 15 minute flight test, which was followed by a series of further flights of up to one hour in duration at a range of altitudes and speeds. UK Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Philip Dunne said Taranis is providing significant insights that will help shape future capabilities for the UK armed forces in coming decades. ”Its advanced technology is testament to the UKs world leading engineering skills that keep Britain at the cutting edge of defence," Dunne said. BAE Systems Group managing director Nigel Whitehead said the demonstrator is the most advanced air system ever conceived, designed and built in the UK. ”This milestone confirms the UK’s leading position as a centre for engineering excellence and innovation,” Whitehead said.
The test flight follows a comprehensive and highly detailed programme of pre-first-flight milestones, including unmanned pilot training, radar cross-section measurements, ground station system integration, as well as taxi trials on the runway at BAE’s Warton facility in April 2013. Designed and built by BAE in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and the UK MOD staff and scientists, the £185m Taranis demonstrator is designed to show a remotely operated air system is capable of undertaking sustained surveillance, marking targets, gathering intelligence, deterring adversaries and carrying out strikes in hostile territory. The technological advances made through Taranis are also expected to help the ministry and Royal Air Force (RAF) make decisions on the future mix of manned and unmanned fast jet aircraft and how they will operate together in a safe and effective manner for the country’s defences.
Image: The Taranis demonstrator taxiing at BAE Systems’ facility in Warton, Lancashire, UK. Photo: courtesy of Ray Troll, BAE Systems.