BAE Systems introduces Taranis umanned aerial vehicle

The Taranis vehicle is a concept demonstrator that will test the possibility of developing the first autonomous, stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle.

A prototype unmanned combat aircraft of the future, Taranis, was unveiled by the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MOD) at BAE Systems’ Warton facility in Lancashire, U.K. on July 12.

Named after the Celtic god of thunder, the concept demonstrator will test the possibility of developing the first ever autonomous stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) that would ultimately be capable of striking targets at long range, even in another continent. Should such systems enter into service, they will at all times be under the control of highly trained military crews on the ground.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at, the U.K. government’s Minister for International Security Strategy, Gerald Howarth, said, “Taranis is a truly trailblazing project. The first of its kind in the U.K., it reflects the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading programme on the global stage.”

Representing the pinnacle of U.K. engineering and aeronautical design, Taranis is an informal partnership of the MOD and industry talents including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.

Nigel Whitehead, Group managing director of BAE Systems' Programmes & Support business, speaking on behalf of the industry team, said, "Taranis has been three and a half years in the making and is the product of more than a million man-hours. It represents a significant step forward in this country's fast-jet capability. This technology is key to sustaining a strong industrial base and to maintain the U.K.'s leading position as a center for engineering excellence and innovation."

The Taranis prototype will provide the MOD with critical knowledge on the technical and manufacturing challenges and the potential capabilities of unmanned combat air systems. Flight trials are due in 2011.