Last week the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) andconfirmed that the stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle ( ) demonstrator surpassed all expectations during its first flight trials last year. Since the first flight, conducted August 10th, 2013 the has been expanding the flight envelope in preparation for the follow-on operational demonstration phase.
is designed to demonstrate the UK’s ability to create an unmanned air
system which, under the control of a human operator, is capable of
undertaking sustained surveillance, marking targets, gathering
intelligence, deterring adversaries and carrying out strikes in hostile
made its maiden flight at the test range in South Australia on Saturday 10th August 2013, under the command of ’
test pilot Bob Fraser. The first flight lasted only 15 minutes, in
which the demonstrator aircraft took off, rotation, ‘climb-out’ and
returned for landing. In a number of follow-on flights that took place
last year, Taranis extended flight duration to one hour, operating at a
variety of altitudes and speeds, as part of the envelope testing.
“The findings from
the aircraft’s flight prove that the UK has developed a significant
lead in understanding unmanned aircraft which could strike with
precision over a long range whilst remaining undetected.” BAE Sources
said, indicating the technological advances made through Taranis will
also help the UK MOD and Royal Air Force 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 UK’s defences. The MOD
is considering a yet undefined ‘Future Combat Air System ‘FCAS’ –
possibly a UCAV to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon in RAF service as the
Typhoon reaches retirement by 2030. As Defense-Update reported two
weeks ago, the UK and France announced an agreement to explore
collaborate in the development of such platform, at an investment of
£120 million. The two countries are expected to sign a formal memorandum
of understanding (MOU) to launch the two-year program in July 2014.
first flight of Taranis represents a major landmark for UK aviation.
The demonstrator is the most advanced air system ever conceived,
designed and built in the UK. Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director
said, commenting on the Taranis flight announcement, ”It truly
represents an evolution of everything that has come before it. This
milestone confirms the UK’s leading position as a centre for engineering
excellence and innovation.”
£185 million ($300 million) and funded jointly by the UK MOD and UK
industry, the Taranis demonstrator aircraft was formally unveiled in
July 2010. The Taranis demonstrator is the result of 1,500,000 man hours
of work by the UK’s leading scientists, aerodynamicists and systems
engineers from 250 UK companies, but only few scientists and engineers
have ever been given full access to the top secret aircraft.
About the size of a Hawk aircraft – Taranis has been designed and built by ,
Rolls-Royce, the Systems division of GE Aviation (formerly Smiths
Aerospace) and QinetiQ working alongside UK MOD military staff and
scientists. In addition to prime contracting the project, BAE Systems
led on many elements of the Taranis technology demonstrator, including
the low observability, systems integration, control infrastructure and
full autonomy elements (in partnership with QinetiQ).
testing commenced later in 2010 at BAE Systems’ military aircraft
factory in Warton, Lancashire in the UK, followed by a comprehensive and
highly detailed programme of pre-first flight milestones including
unmanned pilot training, radar cross section measurements, ground
station system integration. Taxi trials began in April 2013 taxi trials
on the runway at Warton. Following those tests the aircraft and its
ground station were shipped to Australia where it was re-assembled and
prepared for further tests. The aircraft resumed high speed taxi tests
in July 2013 before its maiden flight in August.
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