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Taranis drone demonstrates stealth in latest test

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July 18, 2014

The Taranis UCAV demonstrated its stealth capabilities in its latest test

The Taranis UCAV demonstrated its stealth capabilities in its latest test

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Combat pilots aren't going on the dole queue any time soon, but they might want to start dusting off their resumes. BAE Systems Taranis Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) has flown for the first time in a full stealth configuration, making it almost invisible to radar ... and bringing the day of the unmanned war plane that much closer to reality.

According to BAE, this stealthiness was achieved by engineers removing the air-data boom, which provides air pressure, temperature, and airflow direction data for analysis, from the already stealthy fuselage. Instead, a special system was installed that sent back telemetry of all flight data without the need of a boom or external probe. They also swapped out all the antennae on the aircraft with signature control variants. That is, versions of the antennae that return little or no radar signature.

Other stealth innovations for Taranis include a new radio communications system that allows its mission commander to maintain contact with the craft without revealing the UCAV to the enemy, along with a "hidden" engine configuration.

"Successful propulsion integration was another key highlight of the second trial phase, with the fully embedded and 'hidden' Adour Mk951 engine operating flawlessly coupled with the highly complex and stealthy exhaust system," says Conrad Banks, Rolls-Royce Chief Engineer - Research and Technology, Defence.

Taranis in flight

Taranis, which made its first flight on August 10, 2013, is billed as "the most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers" and is one of Britain’s most closely guarded military secrets. Named after the Celtic god of thunder, it is about the size of a Hawk fighter with a 10 m (33 ft) wingspan, and boasts state-of-the-art stealth, propulsion, and aerospace technology. It’s been under development since 2006, has consumed over £185 million (US$300 million) in public and private funds, and one-and-a-half-million man hours.

Source: BAE Systems

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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5 Comments

This is the future of flight, military and civilian. Kind of makes the F35 look out dated and a total waste of money.

Rehab
19th July, 2014 @ 08:39 am PDT

I'm just thinking out loud on this one but if you are sending communications to a vehicle that is sending communications back the idea of 'stealth' must be fairly limited. Does stealth only refer to avoiding detection by typical or conventional radar? Is it an evolving standard like car crash ratings where a 5 star in the 1990's doesn't compare to a 5 star in 2014?

SamB
19th July, 2014 @ 04:23 pm PDT

Once soldiers are removed from conflict (a worthy goal in itself) and battles become robots vs robots (or RPV's vs RPV's), it's possible that we'll see a return to strategic bombing i.e. the targetting of civilian populations or infrastructures. After all, one cannot bring pressure to bear on machines.

anand mani
19th July, 2014 @ 06:14 pm PDT

@ SamB:

Yes, communications with the UCAV might help the enemy to find (or at least, start looking for) the UCAV.

Although this Gizmag article doesn’t mention the topic, the RAF hopes that the Taranis will eventually be able to fly missions autonomously. In fact, the UK Ministry of Defense has used the phrase, “fully autonomous intelligent system”. See: http://rt.com/news/killer-robot-drone-uk-735/

But the designers have incorporated external communication systems so that the mission can be changed in-flight, if desired.

Also, at present, the software is not yet complete for the 'fully autonomous intelligent system'. So, the Taranis still needs external communication.

The Taranis project is still in its early phase. As RAF Vice-Marshall Sue Gray has said, the Taranis is “likely to enter use post-2030” and “would be flown in concert with manned combat aircraft”.

See: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/video-uk-ends-silence-on-taranis-testing-395574/

@Rehab: That’s one reason the Taranis makes the F35 look outdated. The F35 is nearly ready to enter service. The Taranis is 16+ years away from entering service.

PaulW
21st July, 2014 @ 09:55 am PDT

Since Taranis has such a long lead time in front of it will it also be carrier capable? Also, one serious flaw in all of these autonomous systems is the absolute reliance on satellite connectivity. Even as more independent systems evolve there will still be a strong reliance on satellites. Even with "Bursty" radio transmissions the inherent limit is avoiding jamming, satellites being stunned or blown up, etc.

StWils
21st July, 2014 @ 12:41 pm PDT
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