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Britain unveils new super-drone

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
London (UPI) Jul 15, 2010
Looking like an object straight out of a science fiction movie, the unmanned military jet Taranis by BAE Systems sounds in the future of warfare, the British company claims.

It resembles a large steel trapezoid, is around 40 feet long and potentially deadly: Named after the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis was unveiled by the British Defense Ministry this week.

Nigel Whitehead, a senior official at BAE Systems, the main developer of the new stealth drone, told the Financial Times that the Taranis "is a prelude to the next generation of fighting capability."

The Taranis' main goal is to fly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions while its ground-based crew is able to control the aircraft from anywhere in the world.

BAE Systems hasn't released information regarding the speed, maximum flying altitude, and flying distance of Taranis -- that's classified. But the company says the drone, which can be armed with missiles as well as bombs, is capable of attacking as far away as "in another continent."

"It will be able to hold an adversary at continuous risk of attack; to penetrate deep inside hostile territory, find a target, facilitate either kinetic or non-kinetic influence upon it, assess the effect achieved and provide intelligence back to commanders," the company writes.

The first flight trials are to take place next year. Right now, the Taranis is maneuvered on the ground to reduce the safety risks linked to testing in the air.

BAE Systems is eager to produce a new product for the quickly growing drone market. Drones are ideally suited to hit targets in remote regions and are frequently used by Western forces to strike against terrorists hiding in the mountainous border region linking Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The company says the drone's fully autonomous intelligent system builds on electronics and control technology proven in other BAE Systems unmanned platforms such as Corax, Raven, Herti and Mantis.

The prototype, designed and built since December 2006 with 1 million hours of work, is valued at more than $200 million. Other companies that have worked on the program include Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.

Jointly funded by the British Defense Ministry and the British military industry, the total contract is valued at $220 million.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire, British Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth, called Taranis a "truly trailblazing" project.

"The first of its kind in the U.K., it reflects the best of our nation's advanced design and technology skills and is a leading program on the global stage," he said.

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India eyeing UCAVs in global market
New Delhi (UPI) Jul 13, 2010
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