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A Day in the Life of Taranis

Taranis in flight, unmanned, drone, autonomous

A new video from BAE


I don’t know about you but that looks bloody impressive

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51 Responses

  1. Very Impressive. Im having to force my belief gland to the limits to hope that integrating with Europe won’t slow or even kill this plane.
    BAE seem to be doing a stunning job without a billion pound budget. I would really prefer the UK to continue and finish this cutting edge project. They seem to be progressing so well.
    Was just watching the vid in detail the centre of gravity seems pretty far back, this can point to transonic stability, could someone with more experience than me comment on the likely hood of this drone being super sonic ?

  2. Gets you genuinely excited!

    Notice the flight must be the latter one without the probes for its “clean” tests. Also like the manual navigation taking place at the GCS with the stopwatch and map!

    It may not be a carrier landing, however you can easily seethe ASTRAEA functionality, AAR etc included, overlaid on top of this platform to make it a uniquely sophisticated practical piece of kit.

    Big question:

    Will Son of TARANIS “overly privilege” ISR or will it be aimed at contested strike? What balance should the UK strike?

    Background reading:

  3. “Im having to force my belief gland to the limits to hope that integrating with Europe won’t slow or even kill this plane. BAE seem to be doing a stunning job without a billion pound budget. I would really prefer the UK to continue and finish this cutting edge project. They seem to be progressing so well.”

    Hear, hear.

  4. Good luck on the plane. I’m really not sure how useful it is going to be due to my personal belief that UAV/S capabilities have hit a plateau, but that does not detract from the project being a good achievement and deserving of congratulations.

    Beno, not likely, there is no UAV that does supersonic, the COG is probably more to do with the “stealth” design, slip in, slip out, not go in there blazing. That seems to be the SOP for all UAVs, sneaky instead of high performance, even the X-47.

  5. You could probably class this in the transonic region eg the .8-.9 Mach number cruise range, which for a uav would be impressive. The planforms primary driver is all aspect low frequency radar evasion, which usually ends up at a highly swept wing configuration.

    Are we in the uk ready to stump up the cash to continue this development on our own I somewhat doubt it but this particular craft is nearly a decade in the making to this point and is a credit to the teams involved. For me the future istar/future fastjet aircraft parts of the upcoming sdsr should make interesting reading as those two fields start to merge.

  6. Mark

    So you think we could be looking at an optionally manned Taranis-bomber? Unmanned for most ISTAR missions but manned for bombing runs? Would certainly be good leap forward for Euorpean Areorspace and it if works could sell well to selected allies who don’t want ITAR worries.

    Questions this raises are: do we also need a European replacement for Typhoon / Rafale in the QRA and Air Superiority roles? Or will a couple of squadrons of F/A XX cover that?

    And do all or any of these new platforms need to be operable from the Things That Float? If so do we spend on special systems for the floaty bit or the flying bit?

    Interesting times.

  7. The UK should keep this project going.

    We’re going to need a global strike capability soon and will need some bomb bays on this thing – where are they?

    I love the idea of Tornado being replaced by this thing.

    It could even bring back our nuclear strike capability. Have a few recce sniffs around Russia and play them at their own game!

  8. Looking at the thing more closely I think I can see bomb bay doors (whoopie). It also looks suspiciously capable of nudging supersonic speeds at high altitude.

    I’m not sure there’s any point in it going supersonic but it’s interesting all the same.

  9. You do understand this thing is a technology demonstrator and not an operational prototype. It’s abit like EAP, RV Triton or PACSCAT – a long way away from an operational military system.

  10. Peter

    Can see it being anything other than unmanned for the istar/strike missions. While optionally manned would be nice it would need to be quite a bit bigger than the taranis demonstrator. This is up there with submarine and Sampson radar tech as things we really shouldn’t be selling to that many people IMO.

    A typhoon or Rafael mlu would be how I would proceed they really are exceptionally capable airframes and while they will need replacing one day in the qra role ect the need for radar low observable technology in that regime is IMO rather questionable.

    As for future vehicles such as these on ships let’s wait and see how low observable technology and the sea mix before rushing down that path.

  11. I wonder how much of its required mission profile it can already fulfill?

    Takeoff – check.
    Climb – check.
    Cruise – [unknown actual distance]
    Release payload – [unknown]
    Cruise – [unknown actual distance]
    Descend – check.
    Landing – check.

    Assuming hi-hi-hi.

    So once we get some reports that it was airborne for a few hours (six would be nice) we only need to see some concrete hauled and we’re on the home straight for predesignated bombing.

  12. As NaB says, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, it’s not yet the Bat-Jet! But as technology demonstrators go – well it hasn’t buried itself 30ft under the runway or flown into the side of a hill. So far so good.

    Having said all that, could we upscale it and call it Vulcan 2?

  13. Chris Boardman, managing director at BAE Systems Military Aircraft hinted that Taranis could form the basis of a future platform, describing it as being at a more “advanced stage of technology development than the Experimental Aircraft Program (EAP) had been to the current Eurofighter Typhoon.”

    Not that you necessarily would believe them but its a statement worth considering.

    That would be nice WiseApe resurrect the Vulcan name, unfortunately as the craft increases in physical size so its weight begins to rises exponentially.

  14. “Very Impressive.”

    What exactly is very impressive in there?
    I saw an RPV taking off, doing a 45° bank and landing.
    The first RPV to do so flew in 1939 (or maybe a British one from about 1934 was capable of it already).

  15. A lot of unknowns, but we seem to be leading Europe in this area, which can’t be a bad thing.

    I think an unmanned Tornado comparison is more likely than an unmanned Vulcan. A more marketable product for starters. And the bigger your ambitions at the start, the more vulnerable the project would be to budget cutting and reduced capability as a consequence.

  16. “Looking at the thing more closely I think I can see bomb bay doors (whoopie).”

    Pretty sure those are the landing gear doors… as pointed out this is a small technology demonstrator, so no need for bomb bays anyway.
    And we already have an unmanned Vulcan replacement. It’s called “Trident”.

  17. I wonder how difficult / expensive it would be to design and develop a scaled-up version of Taranis with the option to have a pilot and navigator for long range strike missions with larger weapons payloads, i.e. as a tornado replacement? I am thinking of something along the lines of a mini-B2 bomber.

  18. This demonstrator is about hawk sized a full sized version prob wouldn’t be much bigger.

    To get to that size for a 2 man crew you’d be going for 2 engines, planform would need to scale size wise by about 30%, weight will prob double and development budget at a guess about 6b plus manufacture costs.

  19. Monty and Mark, on a previous thread about Taranis I mentioned (mused?) about a manned, twin engine version. For me it could be a 6th generation light attack demonstrator for the UK. Part of me thinks that this would be only an exercise in manufacturing prestige; is it too early to start talking about 6th generation or would it be 5.5, just awaiting some future technologies? Either way it could be a conduit for UK aerospace to make something of a leap forward ahead of the Chinese and Russians.

    Mark, 6 billion? I’d say a fraction of that, probably double the current costs.

  20. I’d be more inclined to look at this programme as a successor to Reaper and Global Hawk type capability over land and sea, with greater ability to operate in contested airspace. Develop it now for IOC in the 2020s.

    Our unmanned strike capability is TLAM and its successors: we should concentrate on also getting the missiles onto the surface fleet in decent numbers.

    For manned air missions I’d concentrate on extending Typhoon and F35 out to 2040, then have a look at a new Anglo/ French or buying into FA/XX but not until 2025 at the earliest.

  21. Peter

    TLAM cant do Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage and Assess aircraft have the potiential to do that with real time feeds.

    These may well be tlams successor.

  22. Tomahawk is a non-moving-target capable weapon with no laser-guide or controllable EO system and delivers a 450kg warhead which leaves a very big hole. Future ops, as ably demonstrated by the US in Iraq, are targeting mobile vehicles and time sensitive targets for which a 2-hour flight time renders pointless. Storm Shadow is the same. Note that so far not a single TLAM or SS has been launched. I would not be in the least bit surprised if the US are currently shouting at the UK to get Dual Mode Brimstone onto the GR4’s so they can start sniping effectively at IS targets. A Brimstone-equipped evolution of Taranis would very neatly replace the capability currently offered by Tornado for everything bar Storm Shadow carriage – stealthy platform, no risk to aircrew, small precise weaponry and probably good endurance. Put a good recce pod on there as well and programme it for AAR, and you have a very desirable platform indeed.

  23. I think targeting it as a successor to Reaper/Global Hawk is dangerous from a concept point of view.

    Those are, primarily, ISR assets which suggests a replacement would be weighted towards ISR.

    Whereas what I think the UK will need, given some pretty effective ISTAR assets already, is an “unmanned contested strike” platform to complement manned F-35.

  24. Very well put TAS

    Toc. Do you not think those two roles have begun to merger and will accelerate. Reapers already armed and tornado as can be seen at present can do either f35 maybe takes it one step further. There will always be bigger strategic istar aircraft but even there roles are migrating to smaller platforms. I don’t think the fastjet/istar roles are anything other than one and the same going fwd. The question is probably now more of contested and and uncontested requirements.

  25. I do think there’s crossover and that they can complement rather than compete with each other.

    Where I don’t see them converging is in the platform. ISTAR typically benefitting from long endurance, lower speed, very high altitude. Contested strike typically benefitting from range (opposed to endurance), higher speed and varying altitude.

    If that makes sense?

    I think the UK has access to a variety of ISTAR type platforms, but we’re limited in available “contested strike” type platforms. There’s only really F-35 on the horizon. Maybe access to LRS-B longer term, however is the UK still in the strategic bombing game? Should we be?

    Though I do find this type of debate really interesting and would love to hear opinion/thoughts.

  26. Agree about the role of small smart missiles like DM Brimstone.

    My point about TLAM and what comes after it was to negate any suggestion of upscaling Taranis to strategic bomber size. No need to send UK crews into harm’s way and expensively lug heavy loads through contested airspace.

    Keep Taranis small. Let it do the traget finding and targetting. Then either engage with a small missile like Brimstone. Or if necessary lob a big missile in from outside. In both cases use Taranis to keep eyes on and update the targetting in real time.

  27. Has TD seen a major facelift looks to have gone all upmarket or has it been hacked?

    Tlam is in no way comparable to a strategic bomber, it’s essentially a single 1000lb bomb. F35 carries 2 such sized weapons. The load you would design taranis for is 2 paveway 4 or 6 brimstone Type weapons with sensors on board. Range in the order of 1500-2000nm would be nice.


    The best contested weapon system available to the west at present is the b2 which is relatively slow high endurance and very long ranged. An interesting debate with so many ways to answer the questions. Hopefully some very different ideas with come up with outside the box thinking and experimenting.

  28. Ace

    I was meaning that it would take that amount to reach a 2 seat manned production variant not another demonstrator.

  29. Definitely some weird site issues ongoing. Is that a bloody oikball stadium that’s appeared as background?

  30. Of course 1 TLAM =\= a straegic bomber.

    But 12 launched from over the horizon would. But you would still need your stealthy survivable eye in the sky over hostile territory to find the target and potentially to relay targeting updates or abort instructions. And if that same eye could carry 6 Brimstone or on another day a couple of paveway so much the better.

  31. Few more than 12 needed peter, a b1, b2 war loads of the 1000lb bomb variety will be upward of 24 per aircraft heading to 80 x 500lb weapons each.

  32. The B-2’s 80 x 500lb option gets really interesting and is definitely a massive strategic asset.

    How many 500lb’s do you think we could deploy as effectively with a mix of Son of TARANIS, potentially shepherded by data-relaying F-35’s?

  33. I suppose it depends how many of our ships and subs we choose to park off the coast. My point is that we have a heavy weapons capability already in service with the number of launch platforms already planned to increase (Strike VLS for 19 Combat Ships). And waves of Storm Shadow from land and sea based fast air as well. We have heavy launch covered.

    Better then to spend our development funds on small lightly armed surveillance and precision attack bird that can operate in the contested space without risk to crew, hit targets of opportunity, and also identify exactly where to send the heavy metal. The two capabilities together negate the need for the UK invest a lot of money in either a boutique quantity of LRS(B) or on developing a ‘Me-too’ european heavy bomber.

  34. a said: “Pretty sure those are the landing gear doors”

    They are doors for something but I’m pretty sure it’s not landing gear – the landing gear doors fold down from the outside of the fuselage not from underneath.

    In this article the doors in the video are the ones with the yellow marks on them and the left side landing gear door can be seen above that.

    Peter Elliott said: “I’d be more inclined to look at this programme as a successor to Reaper and Global Hawk type capability over land and sea, with greater ability to operate in contested airspace. ”

    They could perhaps ape the Raven/Corax project that came before. There were two designs that appear to share a common nose and engine. One was a flying triangle and the other a long, wide flying wing. Do the same with Taranis or whatever comes after and you can have a stealthy weapon delivery version and a fairly stealthy surveillance version with significant commonality.

  35. Why develop an ISR with light strike capacity when you can purchase one off the shelf that has commonality of GCS and training with our existing MALE platform?

    I think we need to place weighting on heavy contested strike rather than ISR.

  36. Depends how much more stealthy and survivable Taranis turns out compared to the legacy system. There are plenty of places you can’t send Predator if you want it back.

  37. Peter

    The question would be will tlam and stormshadow still be around in 2030 and is that the best way to do what you need to do or is the trend for smaller more precise weapons. No surface ships have tlam in the rn and why invest in the ability to give a minimal capability to an asset that takes weeks to resupply and can’t conduct the whole kill chain independently, they have many other tasks to do that they’re far better suited to. Even with the introduction of f35 will the target set for tlam be as extensive as it has been in the past?


    The US was even talking about giving the b1 the ability to use 100+ small dia bombs. a platform with even a 1/4 of load out, the persistence of being unmanned and controlled from a centre in Lincolnshire with all the lawyers and targeting specialists needed to assess the imagery collected by its onboard systems, the requirement for people to deploy overseas would be less if strategic ranges could be flown by the platform from the uk.

  38. The idea of hundreds of small smart munitions on a single platform is interesting. But is there a UK requirement? What would be the Concept of Operations? And could we ever afford to fill the magazines on such beasts? Without answering such questions its in danger of sounding like a rush to follow the latest military trend.

  39. Avenger looks pretty cool. But the same question stands. And since I’m sure neither GA nor BAEs will publish the true performance metrics we will struggle to answer it here.

  40. Has anyone said if the Taranis demonstrator is intended to be 1:1 scale with a future operational design? I mean why waste materials on making something big enough to carry fuel and warload that a technology demonstrator will never need to?

    Perhaps the demonstrator is designed with a performance margin that would allow it to be scaled up by a certain percentage without disturbing the calculations around power:weight ratios?

  41. Would anyone need to drop 80 x 500lbs bombs? Better to halve it and get some extra fuel.

  42. Airbase takedown is spot on.

    Previously posted but repeated here for convenience for those who haven’t seen it or have not seen it in context, the Concept of Operations that we’re cribbing is one of the USAF strategic uses of the B-2.

    i.e. Taking the following payload…

    …and applying it to the following type of effect:

    Now I don’t think we’re talking a B-2 sized vehicle with 80 x 500lbs however, as Mark suggests, 24 x SDB/SPEAR (or even Paveway IV) carried by each aircraft in a flight of vehicles may approach the same level of impact.

    Enabled with capability such as Cobham’s Autonomous AAR contribution to ASTRAEA (almost the same consortium behind TARANIS) added to a platform that has the endurance to accept refuelling…

    …and we have a potential Tactical/Strategic contested strike platform.

    Insert as many Zambellasism’s (a new TD term of phrase?) to the list of strategic benefits such as “authority” and “credibility” as you choose.

  43. @ToC
    We want our Taranis/B2 to flying over Northern Iraq right now with 80x500lb JDAM’s with British voices from OUR side bringing down Gods judgement on those who use His name in vain.

  44. Why do you want it for nuclear strike capability? Just fire of the Tridents to test them out.

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