Britain’s Stealth Drone Hits Breakthrough

FARNBOROUGH, England — BAE Systems and the British Ministry of Defence demonstrated several new radar-evading stealth technologies during recent flight trials of their Taranis drone program, officials said July 15 at the Farnborough International Air Show.

During a second phase of flight trails conducted earlier this year, Taranis flew successfully with a conformal data system, meaning it was able to collect, organize and transmit relevant air data without needing to use an external probe or boom, said Chris Garside, engineering director for Future Combat Air Systems, BAE Systems.

“The air data boom was replaced with a clean nose of the aircraft. A suite of software was implemented to match those configuration changes. The system generated a full set of flight data without the use of an external probe or boom which would have impacted the low-observable characteristics of the platform,” Garside said.

Typically, nose-mounted air-data systems are used to collect information such as altitude, the drone’s position, angle of attack and slide slope data, he added.  The Taranis demonstrated an ability to do all of this while reducing its radar signature by removing an external probe.

“We were particularly pleased with the handling and performance of the aircraft and it fully validated the design objectives which we had set out at the beginning of the program,” Garside said.

In development since 2006, Taranis is a once-secret developmental stealthy drone program jointly funded by BAE Systems and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence. Other industry participants include engine-builder Rolls Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.

This most recent, second phase of flight testing followed a first phase which took place last year, Garside explained. The concept behind the Taranis development is to refine and advance unmanned stealth technology for the UK and achieve new levels of combat air capability, Garside said.

The trials examined sensor integration for the Taranis as well as navigation, automation technology and communication systems.

The flight trials also successfully demonstrated heat and infrared signature-reducing techniques using an internally embedded gas turbine engine and strategically-shaped exhaust system, said Conrad Banks, Chief Engineer, Research and Technology, Rolls Royce.

“The challenge for us in Rolls Royce is not about the engine but about the [low observable] exhaust system – fully embedded and hiding the gas turbine within the heart of the aircraft. That is essential to minimize the radar cross-section.  You would not see any indications that there is an engine in the aircraft,” Banks said.

The shape of the exhaust is used to control and disperse the airflow leaving the drone, thereby lessening the heat and infrared signature, he explained.

“Minimizing the infrared signature is a highly complex arrangement. You have a very rectangular exhaust that will enable the plume to be dispersed very rapidly — so you can minimize the infrared signature. The angle of the exhaust is aligned exactly with the rest of the aircraft so that the exhaust creates no further signature. The internal geometry is very complex,” Banks said.

Garside said the British Ministry of Defence has embarked upon a collaborative study with the French Ministry of Defence to explore the feasibility of unmanned combat drones. The study may result in individual drone platforms being developed by the respective countries or could lead to a UK-French joint stealthy drone program, Garside explained.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • hibeam

    That tells you how far stealth has come when the pitot tube becomes the long pole in the tent. Truly amazing.

  • Ed B

    Just what we need more useless drones.

    • Bernard

      You can solve that issue easily by not being one…

    • David

      Define useless.

      What makes them useless? Is it the extreme loiter time? Is it the ability to perform extreme maneuvers which would blackout a human pilot? Is it the ability to use them on first day strikes against anti air lessening the possibility for friendly casualties?

      • neo con artist

        Bogus performance parameters perhaps. You know, like the Almighty, Invincible F-22 and the F-35, which can kill your pilots without friendly fire. In fact, the F-35 still doesn’t have proper software for targeting and firing. So no worries there about friendly fires, unless you count engine fires as friendly.

        • quest

          Good one there!

          I’d count engine fires as friendly, coz it’s certainly not enemy fire. LOL.

      • quest

        Useless defined - America’s drone warfare in the ME has failed to produce the desired political results AND the desired military results, even though the drones have by and large achieved their expected performance.

        Now the late comer Britain wants to do the same thing.

        • Iridium Halo

          Note your lack of knowledge about previous British drone technology going back to World War 1

  • rtsy

    Stealth is great, but can it operate from their new carrier?

    • rtsy

      It was a serious question. I haven’t seen a single mention of a tailhook for carrier landings and thats not the sort of thing you can just stick on at the end, especially on a stealth aircraft.

      • ronaldo

        They will likely use the same hook system as the Avenger ll had.

    • quest

      probably not.

      is stealth really that great? probably not either.

  • Knave of Spades

    No, non, do not share with the French. They will sell to the Rus, the Chinese, and the Persians for hard currency.

    • ddman

      Absolutely agree. Don’t sell to the French.

    • quest

      Currently the French are better at designing military planes than the Brits.

      most people in Western Europe know it.

      Americans … well, the least informed in the industrialized world. They are well-infused with body fat though - the most in the industrialized world.

      • davec0121

        Gee - then why is it that every time that there’s a crisis somewhere, be it political, economic, or humanitarian, the first question that everybody asks, including Europeans, is “what is the U.S. going to do about it? Cases in point - the massive earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Indonesia, the typhoon in the Phillipines, etc. In every case, the fat, least-informed Americans provided the vast bulk of relief efforts (and money).

        • quest

          The US government has no money - it’s insolvent, aka bankrupt.

          The rest of the world don’t want or need American “efforts”. The US government has been imposing … And the so-called “reliefs” have been nothing like what you’ve been told by the media.

          Ignorance is a bliss for you, isn’t it?

          • davec0121

            Of course the relief efforts are nothing like we’ve been told. I’ll bet they photoshopped in the images of the American ships, including a hospital ship, off the coasts. And the people opening and running the air ports. And I’ll bet the images that were in the media world-wide of US helicopters, boats, and vehicles bringing in supplies and evacuating victims were staged. Of course you’re not ignorant — you are willfully deceiving yourself about the truth to fit your anti-American narrative, which is even worse.

          • german

            Looks like you are the one willfully deceiving yourself about the truth to fit your uneducated, jingoistic wet dreams of American greatness.

          • davec0121

            Gee, you didn’t think that way when the Soviet Army was just the other side of the border. Unless, of course, you were one of them. Stasi kamerad?

  • LHS

    Huh? Drones Useless? C’mon buddy it’s the wave of the future and if we do not parry with drones our enemies will…If you’re hearing this for the first time then it’s a sad awakening…Some experts ar saying that our future military manpower is expected to shrink to about 400,000 with everything else made up of non-retire pay receiving, vacant VA hospital servicing, scrap and cannibalize when you don’t need them anymore, drones and robots. In concert with all of their hypocritical rhetoric most politicians do not give a damn about ‘We the People’, unless of course these people are the ones like the defense contractor lobbyists who are paying for their campaigns. …

    • quest

      When you elect useless politicians year after year for decades, the population as a whole is useless.

      Drones are useless when they are used by useless people.

      Proof: the US drone warfare in the Middle East.

      By the way, soon there will be a far bigger, far richer and far smarter guy on the block with far more and better drones than the US.

      Finally, you don’t want to cheer for Britain, a country that has screwed America more than any other country.

  • Bernard

    Just imagine a fleet of these regularly flying over Russia with impunity.

    • quest

      Britain is not as suicidal as the US.

      But then, the power that controls the US government aren’t even Americans, so they can afford to be a little more liberal in formulating suicidal foreign policies.

  • Kole

    ^^Sweet dreams…. Good luck.

  • Dfens

    Today it is a drone. Perhaps tomorrow it will be their own manned fighter jet. You’ve gotta start somewhere. This is the best place to start from a cost point of view. I hope our allies make better choices on how to do business with defense contractors than we’ve made.

    • William_C1

      The Eurofighter is hardly the ideal example of how to do business.

      • neo con artist

        What’s wrong with the Eurofighter? Were Neo Con Artists involved? You know, like the F-22 and the F-35 in the US.

        • Dfens

          No neocons, but it was damn expensive and took an extremely long time and it didn’t even make an attempt at stealth. It shouldn’t be surprising since our European allies pretty much led the way in how we ourselves do business with defense contractors now. It would be great if they’d also set the example for how to get rid of a system like that.

      • quest

        then what would be the ideal example of how to do business? please share.

      • Tim Uk

        The Typhoon can perform hi tempo operations and will number between 500-600 in Europe. You have 200 F22’s that due to stealth and corrosion issues can not fly hi tempo missions and are available only 60% of the time. The JSF is a trillion dollar nightmare , so while the Typhoon suffered from the disastrous Euro Management it does what it’s supposed to do and its capability is increasing month on month.

  • Chris5941

    Quest…Do you have any hard data to back up your opinions?

    • quest

      Of course. The facts are everywhere. You can almost pick one up from the streets anytime anywhere. LOL

      • Chris5941

        That’s what I thought, opinions are like assholes.

        • davec0121

          True, especially ones picked up from the streets. You do know what you pick up from the streets -

  • LetsLobRob

    The future looks hairy…scary too.

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