BAE Systems (Stand W412) has started building the airframe for the Taranis, a $254 million unmanned combat aerial vehicle demonstrator aimed at helping the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) determine its armed forces’ future equipment needs.
Named after the Celtic god of thunder, the Taranis is intended to aid the MoD in its approach to future deep target attack and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR). About the size of a BAE Systems Hawk jet trainer, the new UCAV features autonomous systems that allow it to “think” for itself for much of its mission.
The UK plans to start ground testing the Taranis in early 2009 and fly it for the first time in 2010. BAE Systems cut the first metal for the airframe at its manufacturing facility in Samlesbury, Lancashire last month. The Taranis represents part of the UK government’s strategic unmanned air vehicle (experiment), or SUAV(E).
BAE Systems won status as industry lead and prime contractor for the Taranis technology demonstration program under a contract awarded by the MoD in December 2006. The program includes Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and the systems division of GE Aviation (formerly Smiths Aerospace), as well as a range of UK-based suppliers.
The original concept for the Taranis drew upon the BAE Systems-funded Raven program and other technology “de-risking” activities undertaken with industry and MoD funding. The Raven demonstrated, in flight, an autonomous system using a configuration similar to the one proposed for the Taranis.