BAE’S Tara­nis UCA to fly in spring


Tara­nis, an un­manned com­bat air­craft, has been built for the Bri­tish mil­i­tary is to un­dergo its first ever test flight later this year. It can fly faster than the speed of sound, can­not be de­tected by radar and has no pi­lot. This is the new robotic plane that will be­come the next-gen­er­a­tion of front line bombers for the Bri­tish mil­i­tary.

The drone, which is named af­ter the Celtic god of thun­der, has been de­signed to fly in­tercon­ti­nen­tal mis­sions to at­tack tar­gets and can au­to­mat­i­cally dodge in­com­ing mis­siles.

The air­craft, which has cost £125 mil­lion to build, is in­tended to be the first of a new gen­er­a­tion of aero­planes that will re­duce the need to risk hu­man lives on long, dan­ger­ous mis­sions. It 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.

Cur­rently the Royal Air Force uses Tor­nado GR4 bombers as its front line strike air­craft, although the Ty­phoon Eurofighter is ex­pected to re­place it in the coming years. Re­mote con­trolled drones such as Reaper are also used by the Min­istry of De­fence and US mil­i­tary to at­tack tar­gets.

But the Tara­nis is ex­pected to pro­vide a pro­to­type of a new kind of bomber that will re­place pi­loted planes and the cur­rent drones. With a shape more sim­i­lar to the US B-2 Stealth bomber, it in­tended to fly au­to­mat­i­cally us­ing an on-board com­puter sys­tem to per­form ma­noeu­vres, avoid threats and iden­tify tar­gets. Only when it needs to at­tack a tar­get will it seek au­tho­ri­sa­tion from a hu­man con­troller.

Nigel White­head, Group Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of pro­grammes at BAE Sys­tems which has been de­vel­op­ing Tara­nis, said the new drone 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 front­line air­craft. This de­ci­sion will have a ma­jor im­pact on the fu­ture of the UK mil­i­tary.”

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