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07 Dec 06. Defence Minister Lord Drayson has awarded a £124m contract to
BAE Systems to develop UAV technology. BAE Systems will lead an industry team including Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ, and Smiths Aerospace on Project Taranis.

The TARANIS (the Celtic god of thunder) TDP will result in one flying Technology Demonstration Vehicle (TDV) comparable in size to a Hawk aircraft and around 8 tonnes weight. Flight trials are currently scheduled to be conducted at a BAE SYSTEMS range located in Woomera, Australia, provisionally planned later this decade. The Raven programme run by BAE during 2003-4 from its Warton facility has provided a number of key technologies. The Nightjar programme has also supplied key technologies. QinetiQ is supplying Autonomy systems developed with its JSF Autoland experience. Rolls-Royce will be providing key engine technologies no doubt leveraged from its Global hawk Program. Smiths will provide key electronic systems including electrical power and fuel gauging capability whilst BAE Insyte is responsible for providing an Integrated Ground Control Infrastructure to support ground testing, test flights and the demonstration mission. The Insyte team is also responsible for Mission Planning and Control, Payload Control (including imagery analysis and exploitation) and Force Level Mission Management, BAE IAS in Australia will provide the Air Vehicle Control element.

The TDV will demonstrate the successful integration of off-the-shelf technologies, including Signature Integration, Air Vehicle Performance, Vehicle Management, Command Control, Sensor Integration, Communications Integration and Payload Integration. It is not intended to drop weapons from the TDV, but an emulated weapon release will be incorporated into the trial programme as part of a mission representative scenario.

The programme will help increase understanding of the risks and compromises required to successfully integrate a number of key Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle (SUAV) technologies. It will demonstrate design processes, rapid engineering and critical technology integration, through flight trials of an experimental SUAV system.

The understanding Project Taranis will give will inform a potential force-mix decision at the end of the decade. It will also help to sustain the key industrial capabilities needed to support our future aircraft fleets. It will provide industry with the opportunity to develop a competitive edge in a potentially lucrative military and civil market.

A key deliverable of the Defence Industrial Strategy, the programme will explore how cutting edge technology can be used to deliver a new front line UAV capability. Taranis will be one of the world’s largest UAVs, about the size of a Hawk jet, and will integrate stealth technology around an intelligent, autonomous system. It will also test the potential to carry ground attack weapons.

The programme adopts innovative business practices, with military staff and scientists working alongside industry in a new partnership to deliver better transparency and information sharing.

Lord Drayson said: “I am delighted to award this contract, which will test cutting edge technology for a new generation of equipment for our front line forces. The industry partnership brings together some of the finest skills in the country on this groundbreaking project.”

Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal Chris Moran, said: “This is a very exciting programme. It will deliver important developments for the RAF of the future, and will add a new dimension to the force mix which should add to our battle-winning capability.”

During questions after the announcement AVM Chris Moran said that as custodian of the MoDs UAV strategy it was his job to carry out a study into the mix of manned and unmanned vehicles required by the RAF culminating in 2011.

He said that the roles for UAVs were in the dirty, d

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