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BAE Systems To Lead £124 Million UAV Technology Demonstrator Programme


07 Dec 2006

Under a contract awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems will be the industry lead and prime contractor of a joint £124 million project to develop a world-class UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) Technology Demonstrator Programme called Taranis.

BAE Systems, together with Rolls-Royce, Smiths Aerospace and QinetiQ, will work alongside MoD military staff and scientists to develop and fly Taranis.

Named after the Celtic God of Thunder, Taranis will explore and demonstrate how emerging technologies and systems can deliver battle-winning capabilities for the UK armed forces.

The four-year Taranis project, part of the UK Government’s Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle (Experimental) Programme [SUAV(E)], will result in a UAV with fully integrated autonomous systems and low observable features.

About the size of a BAE Systems Hawk, Taranis will provide the MoD with experimental evidence on the potential capabilities of this class of UAV and help to inform decisions on the future mix of manned and unmanned fast jet aircraft.

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.

Ground testing of Taranis is expected to take place in early 2009 with the first flight trials taking place in 2010.

In addition to the existing industry partners, the project will also engage a significant number of other UK suppliers who will provide the programme with supporting technology and components.

Mike Turner, Chief Executive of BAE Systems, said: “This project supports many of the key drivers outlined in the Defence Industrial Strategy – in particular the way in which we, as a nation, continue to develop a sustainable sovereign capability by supporting UK design and engineering skills. This is an important project in light of the way in which military operations are changing.”

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* programme, jointly funded with the MoD and the MoD funded ‘Nightjar**’ programme.
He added: “Taranis will build on and use the technologies and systems trialled in the previous demonstrators we have produced such as Kestrel, Corax, Raven*** and HERTI. It is an important part of our future.”

Editor’s Notes
BAE Systems, as prime contractor will provide many elements of the Taranis technology demonstrator, including the low observability, systems integration, control infrastructure and full autonomy elements (in partnership with QinetiQ); Rolls-Royce will focus on the next generation propulsion installation for the demonstrator and Smiths Aerospace will utilise their skills in ‘vehicle systems’. The TDP Programme will also use a number of other suppliers, some of which have already been selected, including the supply of flight control computing from BAE Systems Australia, one of the few non UK developments expected in the programme and support from BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (INSYTE) with C4ISTAR related work.

*The Replica programme 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 programmes. 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 programme. A key aim of the Replica programme was to demonstrate Low Observable (LO) technologies in a low cost design and production environment, using paperless aircraft processes.

**The Nightjar programme is an example of the technology programmes which are being exploited in this programme. The programme 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 programme was to explore the integration of new airframe features, which could be critical for the future of air vehicle design. The programme provided stepped increases in valuable data on issues surrounding design, aerodynamics, manufacturing and in-service performance limits.

***The Raven programme has already successfully demonstrated some of the key technologies required for the programme. 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.

BAE Systems is the premier transatlantic defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 88,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems’ sales exceeded 12 billion pounds (US22 billion dollars) in 2005, excluding the Group’s former interest in Airbus.

Ref: 370/2006


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