British Stealth Drone to Undergo First Test Flight (excerpt)
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 Taranis 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 front-line aircraft.
“This decision will have a major impact on the future of the UK military.” (end of excerpt)