The UK designed and built Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator, the BAE Systems Taranis, first flew on 10 August 2013. Named after the Celtic god of thunder, this £185 million programme, involving BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation Systems (formerly Smiths), QinetiQ and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Powered by a modified Rolls-Royce Adour Mk951 turbofan, this Low Observable (LO) platform is the successor to studies that started as part of the Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) study in the mid-late 1990s. BAE Systems have released this interesting promotional video:
The first flight was only publically announced six months after it occurred and even then the test site, widely believed to be Woomera, South Australia, was not revealed (UPDATE 11 Nov 2014: until an Australian statement). Woomera was the test site for BAE System’s earlier Mantis UAV demonstrator, which first flew at the Australian desert test range 21 October 2009. Further testing has taken place to demonstrate typical operational scenarios, with the flight test air data boom replaced by stealthy conformal air-data system.
UPDATE: More details on the aerodynamic design challenges of Taranis were revealed in August 2014 issue of The Aeronautical Journal, the technical and research journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). More details were briefed at a 2016 RAeS lecture.
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