Taranis unmanned stealth fighter completes test flights, next generation could 'strike with precision'

BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence have revealed that initial test flights of their jointly funded Taranis unmanned aircraft surpassed all expectations. The stealth combat vehicle demonstrator made a perfect takeoff, rotation, "climb-out" and landing on its first 15 minute flight, all without a pilot inside.

Instead, it was controlled remotely by BAE Systems' test pilot Bob Fraser. The £185 million Taranis also successfully completed further flights of up to one-hour in duration and at a variety of altitudes and speeds.

The flights were held in the last few months of the year, but have only just been revealed at a briefing in London today. The findings could help the MOD and BAE Systems in developing future unmanned aircraft that could strike with precision over a long range while remaining undetected.

"Taranis is providing vital insights that will help shape future capabilities for our Armed Forces in coming decades," said Philip Dunne, minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology. "Its advanced technology is testament to the UK's world leading engineering skills that keep Britain at the cutting edge of defence."

READ: First unmanned flight takes place in UK airspace, 500-mile trip controlled remotely

BAE Systems is proving to be a leader in unmanned aircraft testing, having successfully flown its Jetstream research plane for 500-miles across the UK. The ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment) programme aims to introduce unmanned aircraft to commercial use in the next 10 to 20 years.