Third Series of Test Flights Completed by All-British UCAV

 - December 10, 2015, 7:29 AM
The sole Taranis demonstrator during taxi trials at the BAE Systems airfield at Warton in the UK. (Photo: BAE Systems)

The Taranis UCAV demonstrator that has been produced by a UK industry-government partnership completed a third and final flight-test campaign last month. AIN understands that a key objective was to prove a low radar cross-section measurement but—as usual—program officials remain tight-lipped. Meanwhile, the Anglo-French study of a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) that could lead to an operational UCAV is entering its second and final year. But a senior participant noted that national caveats on the sharing of sensitive technology apply, evidently limiting the scope of the study.

Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programs and support, BAE Systems, said that the Taranis program had “met all its test objectives. It’s been a real triumph, and we’ve learned a lot on the way.” Speaking to an audience of senior aerospace and defense officials at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Whitehead said that the anticipated mission profile for a UCAV had been fully demonstrated. Program officials described that profile in a mid-2014 briefing. Whitehead listed the main achievements of the program as the development of a fly-by-wire system for a highly unstable configuration; the many embedded sensors that that replace data probes and pitot tubes to measure static pressure distribution; the integration of mission sensors, powerplant and communications in a stealthy platform; and the high-integrity safety-critical systems.

Similar achievements are being demonstrated in the pan-European Neuron program, which is being led by France. Whitehead said that the French probably had a similar operational requirement for a UCAS, making them “a sensible potential partner.” But when asked whether "firewalls" are inhibiting the FCAS study, he said the two sides were “not yet at the point of giving away any crown jewels. Ultimately, we’ve got to pool. At the moment, we’re gaining confidence [in each other]. We’re at mid-dance.”