A prototype unmanned combat aircraft of the future, Taranis, has been unveiled by the MOD for the first time today.
Named after the Celtic god of thunder, the concept demonstrator will test the possibility of developing the first ever autonomous, stealth Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) that would ultimately be capable of precisely striking targets at long range, even in another continent.
Should such systems enter into service, they will at all times be under the control of highly trained military crews on the ground.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire, Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth said:
Taranis is a truly trailblazing project. The first of its kind in the UK, it reflects the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading programme on the global stage.
Representing the pinnacle of UK engineering and aeronautical design, Taranis is an informal partnership of the MOD and industry talents including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.
Speaking on behalf of the industry team, Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Programmes and Support business, said:
Taranis has been three-and-a-half years in the making and is the product of more than a million man-hours.
It represents a significant step forward in this country’s fast-jet capability. This technology is key to sustaining a strong industrial base and to maintain the UK’s leading position as a centre for engineering excellence and innovation.
The Taranis prototype will provide the MOD with critical knowledge on the technical and manufacturing challenges and the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems. Flight trials are due in 2011.