four-year Taranis project is part of the UK Government’s
Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle (Experimental) Programme [SUAV(E)].
Taranis is jointly funded by the UK MoD and UK industry, and
will bring together a number of technologies, capabilities and
systems to produce a technology demonstrator based around a
fully autonomous intelligent system.
The Technology Demonstration Vehicle (TDV) will utilize off
the shelf technologies, including Signature Integration, Air
Vehicle Performance, Vehicle Management, Command Control, Sensor
Integration, Communications Integration and Payload Integration.
While it is not intended to actually drop weapons, the TDV systems
will emulate weapon release as part of the flight testing, representing
a typical mission scenario. According to Aviation Week, the
UCAV will have two internal weapons bays and an optional fit
of electro-optical and radar sensors. Along with conventional
weaponry the air force is also looking at the UCAV as a platform
for directed-energy systems - laser or high-power microwave
Mark Kane, managing director of Autonomous Systems & Future
Capability (Air) for BAE Systems, said: “Taranis will
make use of at least 10 years of research and development into
low observables, systems integration, control infrastructure
and full autonomy. It follows the completion of risk reduction
activities to ensure the mix of technologies, materials and
systems used are robust enough for the ‘next logical step’.
These risk reduction activities include the Replica
program, jointly funded with the MoD and the MoD funded
program, building on and using the technologies and systems
trialed in previous demonstrators such as Kestrel, Corax, Raven
and HERTI. It is an important part of our future.”
The Replica program
had the objective of supporting the development of a UK capability
to provide a survivable, affordable and supportable air platform
to meet perceived Royal Air Force and Royal Navy requirements
beyond current programs. Replica resulted in the production
of a full scale Model of a radar signature controlled aircraft
configuration, with key features representative of a flying
integrated weapon system, which was then taken through a rigorous
test program. A key aim of the Replica program was to demonstrate
Low Observable (LO) technologies in a low cost design and production
environment, using paperless aircraft processes.
The Nightjar program
is an example of the technology programs which are being exploited
in this program. The program has played a crucial part in increasing
the UK’s knowledge and understanding of how to design
and manufacture future air vehicles. The aim of the Nightjar
program was to explore the integration of new airframe features,
which could be critical for the future of air vehicle design.
The program provided stepped increases in valuable data on issues
surrounding design, aerodynamics, manufacturing and in-service
The Raven program has
already successfully demonstrated some of the key technologies
required for the program. It was run in the BAE Systems Advanced
Technology Demonstration Centre at Warton during 2003/4 and
in ten months was taken from concept to first flight. The system
was targeted at demonstrating flight control and autonomous
system functionality along with ‘rapid prototyping’
techniques and capabilities.