The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that BAE Systems’ Taranis Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator has conducted initial test flights at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia. The confirmation came from a written statement from the UK MoD to the parliamentary defence select committee inquiry into the current and future use of remotely piloted aircraft.
Named after the Celtic God of thunder, Taranis is capable of supersonic speeds and carries a weapons payload of missiles and laser-guided bombs. It was designed by a partnership comprising BAE, Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.
The $195 million aircraft built by BAE Systems is flying simulated missions to identify potential targets while evading “pop-up” threats.
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.