Taranis makes maiden flight

The BAE Systems Taranis unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator has made its maiden flight and is currently conducting initial flight trials, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to IHS Jane’s on 25 October.

“Flight trials [on Taranis] are currently ongoing,” an MoD spokesperson told IHS Jane’s .

Neither the MoD nor BAE Systems was able to confirm the date of the maiden flight at this stage. However, a full statement by the MoD will be issued when the Taranis flight trial programme has been completed, the spokesperson said.

Flights are understood to be ongoing at the Royal Australian Air Force’s Woomera Testing Range in South Australia. The United Kingdom has used the site extensively in the past to test new military equipment, including the Mantis unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2009.

Meanwhile, in evidence to the UK Parliament’s Defence Select Committee, the MoD separately confirmed on 25 October that “Taranis ground tests commenced in 2010 and flight trials took place in 2013”.

The spokesperson said this was partially incorrect as it implied flight trials had been completed rather than currently in progress, as is the case.

A BAE Systems spokesperson told IHS Jane’s that they were unable to add anything at this point beyond the MoD’s confirmation. The United Kingdom is highly secretive about the Taranis UCAV, which is known to have been seen in public on only two occasions.

BAE Systems has previously commented to IHS Jane’s , “We expect the first flight trials to take place in 2013. Testing on this system requires a very different approach and testing regime from traditional manned platforms. The system will be comprehensively and extensively ‘flown’ on the ground for many hours. This thorough and robust testing activity is the major stepping stone needed to ensure that the system progresses into its flight testing phase in a safe and low-risk manner.”

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