Also known as Raptor, BAE Systems Taranis is a demonstrator programme initiated by the British for unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) technology, and BAE Systems Military Air & Information was mainly responsible for the development of this aircraft. Named after Taranis, in the God of Thunder in Celtic Folklore, the Taranis programme cost to the tune of 185 Million British Sterling Pound, funded by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD) and United Kingdom Defence Industrial Strategy. In an effort that take took one and a half million man hours of work by many of the prominent scientists in the United Kingdom, the Taranis demonstrator made a statement as the top engineering and aeronautical design in the United Kingdom.
Mainly designed for intercontinental flight missions, BAE Systems Taranis will be loaded different types of weapons in order to attack both aerial and targets on the ground. Stealth technology will also be used to allow the aircraft to be low profile under the radar and the aircraft can be controlled by using a satellite link from anywhere across the world. Taranis is also designed for the United Kingdom to show its nation’s capability to develop an unmanned aerial system that can be operated by a human to provide sustained surveillance, mark targets, collect intelligence, intimidate enemies, and perform air strikes within hostile areas. Based on the information gathered during Taranis’s test flights, studies showed that Taranis was able to strike a long-range target accurately while staying undetected.
It is reported that an operational version of Taranis will only be entered into military service after the year 2030. However, according to BAE System official website, it was stated that the Taranis demonstrator aircraft was officially unveiled in 2010, prior to its first flight.
As the Taranis is partly funded by the United Kingdom Defence Industrial Strategy, a Government policy that guarantees that all armed forces in the United Kingdom will be given the equipment that they require based on time and best value for money, the development of UCAV is an essential part of the Government policy. When the United Kingdom Defence Industrial Strategy was announced in December 2005, there was a need for United Kingdom to keep its sovereign aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and UCAV technologies. To ensure things are going as planned, the Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicles (Experiment) Integrated Project Team or also known as SUAV (E) IPT was instructed to audit and manage the Taranis Project.
Design and Development
Primarily overseen by BAE Systems, other companies including Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation Systems, QinetiQ and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence are also involved in the design and development of Taranis. Being the main contractor, BAE Systems is responsible for the whole programme including component technologies such as stealth technology, systems integration, and system control infrastructure. Besides that, BAE Systems also partnered with QinetiQ on all areas related to the autonomy of the system. While GE Aviation is responsible for delivering fuel-gauging and electrical power systems to the Taranis, Rolls-Royce, with 5% of workload in the project, is responsible for creating the propulsion system for the UCAV. On the other hand, a subsidiary company of BAE Systems, Integrated System Technologies, is responsible to provide support on Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Information/Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition and Reconnaissance (C4ISTAR).
To develop Taranis, BAE Systems will take advantage of at least 10 years of research and development information at the beginning of the project. Subsequently, to ensure that the mix of technologies, materials and systems are good enough for the next logical step, BAE Systems performed several risk-reduction activities. Examples of some of these risk-reduction activities are several earlier BAE Systems stealth aircraft and UAV programmes, including Replica, Nightjar I, Nightjar II, Kestrel, Corax, Raven, and HERTI.
As the team at BAE Systems continued to improve on the aircraft’s capabilities, a series of other tests and trials including the initial power-up or ground testing, unmanned pilot training, radar cross section measurements, ground station system integration, and taxi trials were also done at BAE Systems military aircraft factory in Warton, Lancashire respectively.
The technical details of Taranis are:
- Length: 12.44 metres or 40 feet and 9 inches
- Wingspan: 10 metres or 32 feet and 10 inches in approximate
- Height: 4 metres or 13 feet and 1 inches
- Powerplant: 1 X Rolls-Royce Adour Moderate by-pass ratio turbo fan engine with 44 kN or 10000 pounds thrust in approximate
- Maximum speed: Mach 1 for final version
- Armanent: 2 X internal missile bay provision