It has been announced that a top-secret stealth drone has carried out its first successful set of test flights. The Taranis project, named after the Celtic god of thunder, was recently billed by military leaders as the most technologically advanced aircraft ever built in the United Kingdom.
The project has so far cost £185 million and has been funded jointly by the Ministry of Defence and UK industry, will be able to launch precision strikes in hostile territory whilst remaining undetected. However, bosses have said that although the aircraft ‘could’ fly itself autonomously, it would not be used in that way and it would not be able to set its own missions. The Taranis project was first unveiled back in July 2010, but has remained classified until now that is.
At a briefing in London, the MoD and BAE Systems announced that the aircraft, which is described as a “combat vehicle demonstrator”, designed to prove that the technology it is currently using, works. It completed its first flight trials in 2013 and apparently it had surpassed all its potential. Group managing director of BAE Systems, Nigel Whitehead, said regarding a maiden 15-minute flight in August at a secret location, Taranis carried out a perfect take-off, rotation, “climb-out” and landing, piloted remotely by a former RAF pilot. Mr Whitehead said a number of flights, a variety of altitudes and speeds, have been carried out in the last year, but he could not confirm exactly how many. He said: “The aircraft has been designed to demonstrate the UK’s ability to create an unmanned air system which, under the control of a human operator, is capable of undertaking sustained surveillance, marking targets, gathering intelligence, deterring adversaries and carrying out strikes in hostile territory.”
The United Kingdom already uses drones, mostly for intelligence gathering, although some are carrying weapons, but Taranis – which could eventually be built and used by 2030, would be the first specifically-designed unmanned battle aircraft.
[Image via firm-guide]