Taranis, the stealthy unmanned combat vehicle named after the Celtic god of Thunder, recently completed its first successful test flight. The British Air Force says it's the most advanced aircraft the UK's ever built — and based on sheer looks alone, we're inclined to agree.
The UAV was unveiled back in 2010, but its first test flight was believed to have occurred in the Australian desert in August last year. The UK's Ministry of Defence has been pretty hush-hush about the whole thing, but it has finally released the footage:
The semi-autonomous warplane is designed to fly intercontinental missions, and it'll eventually carry a number of weapons enabling it to attack both aerial and ground targets. It utilizes stealth technology, giving it a low radar profile. Taranis will be controllable via satellite link from anywhere on Earth.
The BBC tells us more about the advanced project:
Test pilot Bob Fraser said everything went according to plan. But if you ask him how high or fast it flew he is not allowed to give a precise answer.
He will only say Taranis flew at least "twice as fast" as any other drone he has operated from the ground. Eventually it is supposed to fly faster than the speed of sound.
What we do know is that Taranis is the prototype for Britain's first stealth combat drone.
It is low profile and acute angles are not just designed for speed, but also to avoid detection by radar.
The goal here is to develop an unmanned plane that that can fly into "contested airspace" and deliver its weapons deep behind enemy lines.
The obvious attraction to any politician is that if the technology proves effective such strikes could be carried out without endangering the lives of a pilot or aircrew.
The US and China have their own stealth drones. And Germany is working on one, too.
Hmm, Taranis looks suspiciously familiar.
A Cylon Raider:
And as for the claim that Taranis is the most advanced aircraft the UK has ever had in its arsenal, that very well may be true — but you could make a pretty strong case about this bad boy:
More at the BBC. Images: BAE Systems.