Amid tight security, the Taranis unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) was unveiled at BAE Systems’ Warton airfield in England this week. Uncleared visitors were not allowed to approach the aircraft, but the stealth-driven configuration seemed unchanged from artists’ impressions released previously. The Taranis concept demonstrator is due to fly next year from an undisclosed overseas airbase. The UK Ministry of Defence has provided an additional £18 million ($27 million)–for a total of £142.5 million ($214 million)–to the project “to accommodate an additional program of work with a wider scope.” BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation have provided a further £40 million ($60 million).
BAE Systems group managing director Nigel Whitehead said that the project is keeping alive in the UK the skills of full aircraft design capability. Trade-offs had been made to meet the limited budget, and “every feature of the project has represented a huge technical challenge.”
Gerald Howarth, UK Minister for International Security Strategy, said the project “reflects the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills.” But he would not commit to further funding beyond the demonstrator stage, and left open the possibility of European collaboration in full-scale development of a UCAV. AIN will report on Taranis in further detail in our on-site and online editions at the Farnborough International airshow.