BAE Systems Taranis

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The BAE Systems Taranis is a British demonstrator programme for Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) technology, being developed primarily by the defence contractor BAE Systems. A semi-autonomous unmanned warplane, it is designed to fly intercontinental missions, and will carry a variety of weapons, enabling it to attack both aerial and ground targets. It will utilise stealth technology, giving it a low radar profile, and it will be controllable via satellite link from anywhere on Earth. The Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicles (Experiment) Integrated Project Team, or SUAV(E) IPT, is responsible for auditing and overseeing the project.The aircraft, which is intended to demonstrate the viability of unmanned multi-role systems, is named after the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis. It is planned to conduct its first flight in 2013.

The development of UAVs was a key part of the UK’s Defence Industrial Strategy, which was announced in December 2005, and specified the need for the UK to maintain its “sovereign” aircraft and UAV/UCAV construction skills.

Design and Development
The Taranis project is led by BAE Systems, and also involves Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation Systems, QinetiQ and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). As the prime contractor, BAE Systems is responsible for the overall programme, and also for many of the component technologies, including stealth technology, systems integration and system control infrastructure. BAE Systems and QinetiQ are working closely on all aspects relating to the autonomy of the system.

GE Aviation Systems (formerly Smiths Aerospace) is responsible for providing Taranis’ fuel-gauging and electrical power systems. Rolls-Royce is responsible for the propulsion system and installation; the aircraft is expected to use a Rolls-Royce Adour Mk.951 turbofan. BAE Systems Australia is tasked with developing and supplying the flight control computers, having a 5% workshare in the project, while the Integrated Systems Technologies (Insyte) subsidiary of BAE Systems is providing C4ISTAR support.
BAE Systems stated that “Taranis will make use of at least 10 years of research and development into low observables, systems integration, control infrastructure and full autonomy. It follows the completion of risk-reduction activities to ensure the mix of technologies, materials and systems used are robust enough for the ‘next logical step’.” These “risk-reduction activities” included related BAE programmes, such as Replica, Nightjar I, Nightjar II, Kestrel, Corax, Raven and HERTI.

The first steel for the Taranis prototype was cut in September 2007, and assembly began in February 2008. On 9 January 2009, the Ministry of Defence denied that the Taranis had been flying near the site of a damaged wind turbine, after local people claimed to have seen a UFO.

The Taranis prototype, which cost £143 million to develop, was unveiled by BAE Systems at Warton Aerodrome, Lancashire, on 12 July 2010. Ground tests of the prototype began in 2010, and flight trials were initially expected to begin in 2011. However, the aircraft’s first flight was later delayed to 2012, then delayed further to “the first part of 2013”.

The prototype has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of about 8,000 kilograms (18,000 lb), and is of a similar size to the BAE Hawk training jet. It mounts two internal weapons bays, and is intended to incorporate “full autonomy”, allowing it to operate without human control for a large part of the mission.

Flight testing
On 25 October 2013, the UK Ministry of Defence revealed that initial flight tests had already taken place. Ground tests were conducted in 2010 and flight trials occurred in 2013. MoD will not officially comment on the Taranis until the initial trials program has been completed.

On 5 February 2014, BAE revealed information on Taranis flight tests. The first flight occurred on 10 August 2013 at Woomera Test Range in South Australia. This happened three years after the aircraft had been produced and lasted for 15 minutes.

A second sortie was launched on August 17. Subsequent flights surpassed expectations for the airframe, flying at various speeds and heights for as long as one hour. Developing the Taranis has so far cost £185 million, compared to £140 million as originally projected. The first flight also happened two years later than planned. The Taranis is planned to be operational “post 2030” and used in concert with manned aircraft.

Engine thrust: 6,480 pounds (2.94 t)

Max. Takeoff Weight
Max Speed
Taranis11.359.9448000High subsonicIntercontinental2041

United KingdomBAE SystemsFarnborough, Hampshire