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Taranis takes flight for the UK

Feb. 6, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
Taranis first flight footage
Taranis first flight footage: Taranis, the stealthy unmanned combat vehicle demonstrator, filmed during its initial flight trials. It's the most advanced aircraft ever built in the UK. BAE Systems video
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BAE Systems has released photos of last year's test flight of its secretive Taranis unmanned combat aerial vehicle demonstrator. / BAE Systems

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Britain's Taranis strike UAV has made its first flight. The flight, which occurred on August 13 but was only announced yesterday by the Ministry of Defense, lasted 15 minutes.

The BAE demonstrator aircraft "made a perfect take-off, rotation, ‘climb-out’ and landing on its 15-minute first flight," said the Ministry of Defense announcement, which added that "a number of flights took place last year, of up to one hour in duration and at a variety of altitudes and speeds."

Taranis, named for a Celtic thunder god, was formally unveiled in July 2010. Taxi trials began in April 2013, followed by high-speed taxi trials in July and then August maiden flight and subsequent flights. "The findings from the aircraft’s flights prove that the UK has developed a significant lead in understanding unmanned aircraft which can strike with precision over a long range whilst remaining undetected," the Ministry of Defense said.

Details are sketchy of the $300 million Taranis demonstrator aircraft, but it is described as being the size of a BAE Hawk trainer. The project has involved 250 British companies and 1.5 million man-hours of work. The various contractors include BAE, Rolls-Royce, the systems division of GE Aviation, and QinetiQ.

“The first flight of Taranis represents a major landmark for UK aviation," said BAE group managing director Nigel Whitehead. "The demonstrator is the most advanced air system ever conceived, designed and built in the UK. It truly represents an evolution of everything that has come before it. This milestone confirms the UK’s leading position as a centre for engineering excellence and innovation.”

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