Australia will host test flights of the British unmanned stealth drone Taranis.
According to reports carried in the UK’s Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald, the $195 million aircraft built by BAE Systems will be tested in outback areas of Australia later this year, flying simulated missions to identify potential targets while evading “pop-up” threats.
First revealed in July 2010 and named after the Celtic God of thunder, Taranis is capable of supersonic speeds and carries a weapons payload of missiles and laser-guided bombs.
The Telegraph reported a spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) as saying: “Taranis is the first of its kind in the UK. Unmanned air vehicles play an important role on operations, helping to reduce the risks faced by military personnel on the front line.
“Forthcoming Taranis flight trials will provide MoD and industry with further information about the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.”
BAE Systems’ Melbourne facility has been at the centre of drone development. Opened in April 2010, the centre integrated the company’s local aerospace, autonomous systems and guided weapons research into a single facility. On opening the facility BAE Systems said the company was “at the forefront of research into autonomy and guided weapons systems”.
Australia has been used since 2001 as a location for testing and operating unmanned aircraft due to its uncongested airspace in remote regions. Between 2001 and 2006 the US is said to have flown Global Hawk missions from RAAF Base Edinburgh.