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.
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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.
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