Taranis: British stealth drone passes top-secret trial

The Taranis drone

UK's £185m unmanned Taranis drone completes 'full stealth' flight above the Australian desert

LAST UPDATED AT 12:07 ON Wed 16 Jul 2014

Britain has successfully completed secret trials of its state-of-the-art Taranis stealth drone above the Australian desert, it was revealed at the Farnborough Airshow yesterday.

The flight of the delta-winged, finless aircraft in "full stealth configuration" was hailed as a success by the companies involved in the project: BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Qinetiq.

Chris Garside, BAE's engineering director, said the Taranis drone, which takes its name from the Celtic god of thunder, represents a step forward for the British arms industry. "Taranis is a real showcase for UK expertise and the trials are a stepping stone toward unmanned warfare," Garside said.

The Times described the test flight as "a milestone on the road to Britain having unmanned aerial combat squadrons."

Taranis, jointly funded by the government and private industry, has cost £185 million so far. The big breakthrough from the Australian test programme was the successful concealment of the drone's Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine from radar.

"The challenge has not been to build the engine but to integrate it — to embed and hide the gas turbine, to minimise its thermal image and its infra-red signature and to minimise any sign there is an engine there," Conrad Banks, Rolls-Royce's chief engineer, said.

The tests also helped refine the Taranis's heat-seeking sensors.

The jet is now back at BAE's plant in Warton, northwest England, where it is undergoing maintenance, Defense News reports. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.