Taranis is one of the largest UAVs ever (photo : BAE Systems)
BAE Systems Plans Taranis Test Flights in Australia in Spring
BAE Systems‘ Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, is to be flown for the first time in a series of tests over the Australian outback in the spring in an attempt to demonstrate the technology to military chiefs.
Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director of Programmes at BAE Systems, which has been developing Taranis, said the new aircraft, which has cost £125 million to build, could change the way aircraft are used by the MoD in the future, which currently uses manned planes for combat missions.
He said: “I think that the Taranis programme will be used to inform the UK MoD thinking, regarding the make up for the future force mix. I anticipate that the UK will chose to have a mix of manned and unmanned front-line aircraft.
“This decision will have a major impact on the future of the UK military.”
The Taranis uses stealth technology, including a highly secretive coating that helps it slip through radar undetected. It will be able to carry a series of weapons on board including missiles and laser guided bombs.
Taranis UAV (image : The Telegraph)
The tests on Taranis, which is powered by a Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine used on Hawk training jets, will see it flying a simulated mission where it must automatically avoid unexpected threats such as ground to air missiles and seek out potential targets.
Once identified, the operators will send instructions to Taranis to attack the targets before performing a flying past to confirm the damage and then landing safely.
Mr Whitehead added: “There is one demonstrator aircraft. The mission plan will be loaded onto the vehicle. The aircraft will then fly the mission. Taranis will fly to the search area and sweep the area to identify targets.
“The aircraft will be presented with unexpected “pop up” threats and its evasive response will be monitored.
“Target information will be relayed to mission command and the aircraft will hold off until given the next instruction to prosecute, send more data or ignore the identified target.
“In the event of a command to attack, this will be carried out followed by a battle damage inspection and then further interaction with command to confirm the instruction to attack again, prosecute other targets or to come home, avoiding further pop-up threats.”
A spokesman for the MoD added: “Taranis is the first of its kind in the UK. Unmanned Aircraft Systems play an important role on operations, helping to reduce the risks faced by military personnel on the front line.
“Forthcoming Taranis flight trials will provide MoD and industry with further information about the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.”