back to article UK claims 'significant lead' in drones after Taranis test flight

Ancient Greek chap Aeschylus is reported to have said, way back in the 400s BC, that “In war, truth is the first casualty.” What then to make of news that Britain's controversial Taranis apparently made a test flight … in August 2013. BAE Systems kindly let the world know of the test flight late last week, a mere six months …

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Black Helicopters

Taraniis may concern

I for one am not happy about this. The governmwent I am ruled by has an indecent history f spying. Let us hope the project languishes the way that the heroes of the fight against the Armada were left to languish. It's easy to tell from the name that it is primarily aimed at Iran. As if we hadn't stored enough of a legacy of hate in the near east.

taranis = Iran's IT.

If it helps, the use of early mobile phones anywhere near the research lab where it was developed would have their technicians in a phys and security bubbling with big sticks.

I suppose all you need to do is fill the airwaves with suitable interference and see what happens next time you detect another interferer.

So:

One down umpteen more to go. Good luck.

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Re: Taraniis may concern

Taranis = Celtic God of Thunder

The photo makes that reference pretty clear ... it would have almost been made for a painting by J.M.W. Turner.

As to the length of time it took to get the news out ... maybe they couldn't get an internet connection and had to take the news to Adelaide by runner? </joke>

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Black Helicopters

Re: Taraniis may concern

"Taranis = Iran's IT"

Oh my word - fully signed up member of the Tin Foil Hat Brigade! Doesn't even work as an anagram, but hey ho, never mind as long as it stokes some paranoia!

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Re: Taraniis may concern

"Taran" is the Russian for "ramming attack".

Hope it's not the cunning plan on how the drone is going to be deployed...

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Boffin

Does it deliver pizza?

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An RAF drone

The delay was presumably to engineer a computer with sufficient mustache capability.

How's its banter?

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impressive

"could strike with precision over a long range whilst remaining undetected.”

And it stayed undetected for 6 months...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: impressive

This is clearly an attempt of my drone is better than yours, a way to show money is being well spent and we produce decent tech...

And this is the nicer drone..

It is stealthy high speed killing machine, and its British, which is nice to see!

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Small soldiers

My kids watched Small Soldiers yesterday (yet again). One thing that stuck to my mind was the CEO at the end: "This would have made a hell of a commercial".

So yeah, a hell of a commercial all right... A few zeroes at the end of the price tag too.

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Facepalm

Re: Small soldiers

Quite. While amusing, the intention to deploy the rogue elements in a South American country with interests that differed from the US said it all. Murder by proxy, murder by toy soldier. (I am of course talking about Toy Soldiers :-)

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As the video below shows, Taranis is an impressive-looking creation.

It was confusingly appropriate I think that when I clicked on the video to watch it, after a few seconds it ended up overlaid with a Google advert for a Ford Transit van?

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Anonymous Coward

It's impressive

But I'd rather British government and industry invested in the real cutting edge stuff. Wouldn't it be nice to get that space plane off the ground?

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Re: It's impressive

Good news they are helping to fund the space plane (I assume your talking Skylon)

And the ESA is evaluating it as the next step in space access!

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Re: It's impressive

I presume your [sic] literate. UK advantage in world science relies on this. IMHO we have world leading scientists but a bit of attention to detail (\LaTeX) re. language is vital. It's what the world expects of the UK.

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I see this as a good thing.

Less manned aircraft in harms way. Cheaper than manned aircraft. Once you get a decent carrier based one then the carriers are cheaper as well.

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Less bad press

Dumping the pilot means that it's now only an embarrassment if the government loses an aircraft over enemy territory, rather than a Daily Mail incident. This means that they will get used a hell of a lot more than manned aircraft, in riskier missions, which will somewhat negate the lower cost.

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Re: Less bad press

At £168 milion per aircraft, at what point is this cost lower for instance if you can get 4 super hornets for that price. Stealth is good, but most missions are flown against Pirates, Bushmen with rifles and Bushfire conflicts where stealth is not needed. The F22 raptor is 18 years old and has never seen a war, I think the term is appropriate technology and the UK just has not got the opponents to justify a fleet 10 Taranis which would buy most of a county in England. We had the same problem with the BAE invisible tank.

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Re: Less bad press

The cost of military aircraft is all pilots and maintenance - the sticker price is irrelevent.

The big advantage of drones is deniability. If one gets shot down attacking a baby milk factory in a TPLAC it either self destructs or you make sure you didn't put any Made in Britain stickers on major parts and you can deny it to the press. It's harder when the tribesmen are parading a captured pilot on TV

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Less bad press

Is it really that expensive? I was under the impression that the predators and reapers cost less than 10M each. We could purchase F22's for that price (if the US were exporting them).

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Unhappy

Looks like the B2 bomber which all in came to $2Bn/aircraft.

Of course it's 172 feet wide and it's stealth coating rots pretty much anywhere that's too hot/cold/humid, basically outside its (air conditioned) hangar.

Taranis is much smaller.

Much cheaper?

It's a cost plus government contract with BAe, one of America's Britain's biggest arms defense companies.

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FAIL

you forget British development process

If it seems to work and is worlds best or better, then development must stop, now. Just ask Duncan Sandys how its done. If its a fail, keep trying with massed attacks of money in standard process.

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Terminator

Am I the only one

Who thinks that Taranis is a bit of a scary name with connontations of some scary AI overlord?

ROTM

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Re: Am I the only one

In a posh accent it sounds like Tyranus,

hints of tyranny with a dash of Sith thrown in,

It sounds almost as scary as it looks

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When I read the introductory quote, I wondered ...

... if there's a market for drones which kill people by stealthily dropping tortoises on their head. Maybe only works for bald targets ...

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Spoilers

The spoilers (they'll work in pairs at each side to provide yaw control, the B2 uses the same setup) seem very poorly faired in, I can only presume that they present a smaller radar signature this way.

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supersonic

how can it be stealthy and supersonic ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: supersonic

Radar doesn't pick up sound waves.

If you are relying on the Sonic boom, it's already too late.

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Taranis

The Taranis drone is £168 million per aircraft which only compares well with the F35 $392 million, lets put it into another perspective the A-10 costs $12 million and if radar is such a problem the odds are we would purchase a HARM at $284,000 to remove it. We could get 1000 HARM missiles for each Taranis and instead of avoiding radar we would erase it from the battlefield.

Taranis also suffers from a communications problem, like all drones can be spoofed and disrupted by interfering with its GPS signals(widespread with a Russian system Avtobaza), and wide frequency jamming it is therefore vunerable in every way possible because its reasoning ability is external to the aircraft in a remote location. The default actions for an unmanned aircraft which loses its communications is to return home without completing its mission, it is therefore suitable only for attacking such opponents who do not have the resources and know how to interefere with communications.

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Re: Taranis

"and instead of avoiding radar we would erase it from the battlefield."

You are assuming there will be a battlefield. What about an unexplained gas explosion with traces of RDX in the debris?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Taranis

"We could get 1000 HARM missiles for each Taranis and instead of avoiding radar we would erase it from the battlefield"

And how do you get HARM to the target without a carrier aircraft? (ps I see UK no longer has ALARM)

"The default actions for an unmanned aircraft which loses its communications is to return home without completing its mission"

Only if that's the way you programme it. How about if the default is "press on, and see if comms regained" or "carry on and bomb the pre-defined target" ?

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Facepalm

Re: Taranis

£168Million TOTAL cost, for the entire development process up to this prototype, the final per-craft cost is not known yet... But I would be shocked if it was more than £10Million,and I suspect it will be a lot less, the biggest cost I expect will be the engine, since supersonic capable jet engines are NOT cheap.....

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Re: Taranis

Don't think its a like for like comparison between Taranis costs and an F-35, there is only one Taranis Demonstrator and there are 100 F-35's. Therefore all the design and development costs are against a single Taranis, while you spread the F-35 costs across 100 aircraft.

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Re: Re: Taranis

"You are assuming there will be a battlefield. What about an unexplained gas explosion with traces of RDX in the debris?"

All depends, you are of course assuming we would be comitting some form of terrorist action on an opponent who would not be able to track or jam a flying drone attack, with an aircraft costing £200 million to drop a £18,000 bomb. Does this happen often ?

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Re: Re: Taranis

"And how do you get HARM to the target without a carrier aircraft? (ps I see UK no longer has ALARM)"

Last time I checked the RAF still operated Tornado GR4 and Typhoons - is this the silly question section ?

"Only if that's the way you programme it. How about if the default is "press on, and see if comms regained" or "carry on and bomb the pre-defined target" ?"

Only if you never liked the aircraft and never wanted to see it again.

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Re: Re: Taranis

"£168Million TOTAL cost, for the entire development process up to this prototype, the final per-craft cost is not known yet... But I would be shocked if it was more than £10Million,and I suspect it will be a lot less, the biggest cost I expect will be the engine, since supersonic capable jet engines are NOT cheap....."

This is BAE, you know the company which gets chummy with the MOD chaps so they pay 100 times the cost of an off the shelf equivalent.

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Re: Re: Taranis

"Don't think its a like for like comparison between Taranis costs and an F-35, there is only one Taranis Demonstrator and there are 100 F-35's. Therefore all the design and development costs are against a single Taranis, while you spread the F-35 costs across 100 aircraft."

Actually this brings the F35 price down, but the reality is that is still not a complete program, is still in development and is a decade behind schedule so we put it right back up again. There is also the reality that Canada and Australia will be dropping out as the costs rise which will make the unit cost soar for the F35A but thats another thing entirely. Taranis is a BAE program and nothing they sell from development turns out anything but hugely over budget.

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Re: Taranis

"Taranis also suffers from a communications problem, like all drones can be spoofed and disrupted by interfering with its GPS signals(widespread with a Russian system Avtobaza), and wide frequency jamming.... "

Looking at all the wars of recent decades, they've not involved super-power on super-power. It's either p1ss pot renegade states, newly started civil wars, or super power proxy battles involving thug nations not clever enough to see what's happening (or not caring).

With any form of deterrence and nukes on call, the main powers won't go to war with each other, so the wars of the future are likely to be the sort of things we see today - wars of choice against third rate states or irregular actors, usually over large areas and geographically hostile terrain. These missions won't see any worthwhile ECM. And you don't need an F35 for these missions, you just need a drone, even if the F35 is still considered necessary purely as a linking cog in the machine of deterrence.

There's plenty of other roles as well for drones where no ECM is likely to be offered (piracy prevention, drug interdiction, mandate enforcement). As ECM becomes cheaper and more readily available, the drones will use alternative approaches for communication that get round the crude systems they might face - but ultimately you could use them as effectively for simple strike missions based purely on inertial and optical positioning.

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Re: Taranis

@Ledswinger

Agreed, in fact most of these conflicts could have used WW2 turboprops for close air support - the C130 Spectre gunship for instance. Most current drones are turboprop after dropping high speed turbofans, they are cheaper and more expendable. But dones will be playing second fiddle in the communication ECM war, in the same way aircraft have with missiles. To defeat the missile you needed to create an entirely new aircraft, missiles only needed to upgrade the seeker.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Taranis

"Does this happen often ?"

I can think of 3 occurrences all in one day.

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Unhappy

Re: Taranis

"Looking at all the wars of recent decades, they've not involved super-power on super-power. It's either p1ss pot renegade states, newly started civil wars, or super power proxy battles involving thug nations not clever enough to see what's happening (or not caring)."

Sort of like Afghanistan for example?

Remember how the Americans ran their drones with unencrypted video uplinks because "Johny Afghan knows nothing of such Western magik."

Turns out that was wrong.

So it could be argued a low observable with decent security might be reasonable.

M1+?

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Re: Taranis

@John Smith 19, the problem with that is the more you encrypt, the more you have to compress signals, the easier the signal is to degrade by jamming, you do not have to spoof and take control you only have to break the live feed link and the drone becomes a useless powered glider as it endlessly resends packets for error correction.

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Terminator

Wheres the hardware?

Seems to fly OK but where would the munitions go? Hang them on the outside makes a bigger radar signature and putting them internal will lower the fuel carrying capacity. Assume it's a weapons only system as no obvious camera nacelle/turret.

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It only exists to let BAe be a player

The UK and French have agreed to work on a new combat drone. BAe wants a big slice of the cake, and rolls out the advertisement. On the other hand the French worked on a similar drone called the nEUROn (with crazy spelling). For the first flight they simply invited the press. Much more credible.

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Facepalm

Re: It only exists to let BAe be a player

And you really think that was the first flight (snigger)

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Re: It only exists to let BAe be a player

"It only exists to let BAe be a player"

Well, given the way things are moving, manned aircraft seem rather redundant for many roles in a combat zone, limiting the performance and the endurance of the craft. But BAe (and most other Euopean nations) have been very late to the UAV party, having let the Yanks and Israelis build up some strong capabilities. BAe have to pony up something fairly good to be considered, and what better than promising both stealth and supersonic as well as the all important "unmanned".

In BAe's place what would you do to make up for the lost ground?

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Why are they still piloting these things with meat brains?

Stick an autopilot and an aimbot in there and there you have it. Totally autonomous killing machines.

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Anonymous Coward

More money spent on things to kill people in cleverer and cleverer ways

Why can't we try being nicer to people instead?? Or just talking to them even.

I wouldn't mind as much if we weren't so fucking broke as a country to begin with!

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Re: More money spent on things to kill people in cleverer and cleverer ways

Or even just thinking about the consequences beyond the first strike.....

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Black Helicopters

Who will be the second customer after Jeff Bezos?

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WTF?

So the UK has it's own drone - guess what, so does VietNam

Sweden has a project in VietNam for building drones.

The PR blurb said:

"In Phase One, Sweden will provide funds and equipment for VietNam to manufacture two Magic Eye 1 UAVs. It will send experts from Unmanned Group, provide intellectual property and the model design to VietNam.

During Phase Two, the two sides will cooperate in aeronautical electronic science development.

In the Phase Three, they will manufacture UAVs according to each other's demand and capacity.

Pity VietNam doesn't have the technology to sort out the road and traffic mess.

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