The U.K. has finally unveiled the Taranis unmanned combat air vehicle technology test-bed.
The Taranis was shown for the first time on July 12 to an audience of government officials led by Gerald Howarth, the defense minister for international security strategy. Senior military officials also attended the event at the BAE Systems Warton site in the north west of England.
The contract for the low-observable (LO) demonstrator was announced in December 2006, with the program team led by BAE Systems. Rolls-Royce, Qinetiq, and General Electric Aviation are also involved.
(Credit for all pictures: Crown Copyright)
The original timetable called for first ground trials in early 2009, to be followed by a flight test program in 2010. Integration problems have caused delays, however. Working on the LO engine intake and duct appear to have been particularly challenging.
The U.K.’s Future Combat Air Capability effort is looking at a UCAV as a potential option to satisfy the demand; the timing of the introduction of such a capability into service is uncertain and will likely be dependent on the outcome of the ongoing strategic defense review.
The Taranis draws on BAE’s research and development experience from the Testbed manned low-observable airframe development in the late 1990s along with the Raven sub-scale unmanned combat air system demonstrator. The full-size Testbed airframe was used for pole-mounted signature measurements. The Raven demonstrator was first flown in late 2003.
The Taranis uses a similar planform as Raven. The top-mounted air intake and S-curve duct help to reduce radar signature by dissipating radiofrequency energy returned from the engine blades. The air vehicle has previously been described as having two internal weapon bays.