Additional flight trials may be conducted on Taranis, an unmanned combat air demonstrator. (BAE Systems)
FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — The British government is considering an industry request to undertake a new phase of flight trials of the Taranis unmanned combat air demonstrator vehicle, according to program officials here at the Farnborough International Airshow.
“We are currently discussing with the UK Ministry of Defence the opportunities for further trials,” Chris Garside, BAE’s future combat air system engineering director, told reporters at the show.
Funding options for an unplanned third phase of work is being considered by the two sides, said officials.
The £185 million (US $316.4 million) demonstration program was previously co-funded by industry and government.
Garside wouldn’t discuss the reasons for a possible trials extension.
News of the move to keep Taranis in the air came on the day the British and French governments signed a deal at the show to conduct a £120 million, two-year feasibility design study into a future combat air system.
Backed by the two governments, six leading industry players across the two nations have combined to undertake design studies into an unmanned air combat system.
BAE and Dassault Aviation are working together on the platform, Thales and Selex ES on avionics, and Rolls-Royce and Snecma on the power plant.
Some of the Taranis development results, along with work by a French-led team on a similar European program known as Neuron, will be fed into the combat air system study.
The move on Taranis follows completion of a two-phase flight test program undertaken at the Woomera test site in South Australia by the BAE Systems-led development team.
Neither the MoD nor industry have confirmed Woomera as the site of the test flights.
Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation and QinetiQ work with BAE on the program along with a number of smaller British companies.
The machine is now back at BAE’s plant in Warton, northwest England, where it is undergoing work, including maintenance.
Under the second, and for the moment at least, final phase of flight tests, the aircraft was stripped down to undertake stealth operations.
All the antennas on the aircraft were changed for signature control variants and the air data boom on the nose of the aircraft was removed and replaced with a system allowing the machine to generate a full set of flight data without using an external probe or boom, Garside said.
The initial phase to prove safe operation of Taranis started with a first test flight in August 2013. The second phase of flights commenced and were completed over the Australian summer of 2013 and 2014. ■