Taranis test flights to inform design of future combat aircraft

5 February 2014

The most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers has successfully completed its first flights.

Taranis, an unmanned aerial combat vehicle designed and built by a team comprising BAE Systems, Qinetiq, GE Aviation, Rolls-Royce, and DE&S, was flown for the first time at an undisclosed test range on Saturday 10th August 2013.

Made possible with joint funding worth £185m from industry and the Ministry of Defence, the stealthy unmanned combat system has been designed to demonstrate the feasibility of a long-range unmanned aircraft capable of precision strikes, plus sustained surveillance, marking targets, and intelligence gathering.

Taranis taxiing at BAE Systems, Warton, Lanacashire

Source: BAE Systems

Taranis taxiing at BAE Systems, Warton, Lancs

‘This is the most advanced air system yet conceived, designed and built in the UK and its vitally important for the future of both UK air defence and the UK defence industry,’ said Philip Dunne, minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology.

Piloted by BAE Systems’ test pilot Bob Fraser, Taranis is said to have made a perfect take-off, rotation, ‘climb-out’ and landing on its first 15 minute flight. According to BAE Systems, a number of flights took place in 2013, of up to one hour in duration and at a variety of altitudes and speeds. 

News that Taranis had made its initial flights was announced today at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.

Speaking at the event, Philip Dunne, minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology said: ‘We’re already thinking about what technology developments might follow [the 5th generation Joint Strike Fighter]

‘Those aircraft may need to operate in contested airspace behind enemy lines. They may be unmanned but the technology we’ve gained on the Taranis technology demonstrator keeps the UK in a strong position as we tackle that challenge, particularly in developing technologies such as low observability. 

‘The evidence gained from the flights so far is already helping to inform future combat aircraft capability.’

[embedded content]

Source: BAE Systems

The most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers has successfully completed its first flights

Taranis was built with the help of 250 UK companies and will help inform future decisions on the future mix of manned and unmanned fast jet aircraft in theatre.

BAE Systems said in a statement that initial ground testing commenced in 2010 at its facility in Warton, followed by a programme of pre-first flight milestones including unmanned pilot training, radar cross section measurements, ground station system integration and taxi trials.

The aircraft and its ground station were then shipped from Warton to the test-range before being re-assembled and being subject to systems and diagnostics checks. Taranis then made a number of high speed taxi tests in July before its maiden flight in August 2013.

[embedded content]

Source: BAE Systems

Taranis will help inform future decisions on the future mix of manned and unmanned fast jet aircraft in theatre

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Trade body calls for further tax breaks to boost UK aerospace

5 February 2014 | By Jason Ford

Britain’s commercial aerospace industry can sustain and build on its global market share with a three-pronged set of measures aimed at improving tax incentives.

Paul Everitt, chief executive of trade body ADS, believes these measures will build on work that has so far helped the industry gain a 17 per cent foothold in the global commercial aerospace market which grew by 28 per cent in 2013.

ADS estimates demand for 60,000 new aircraft worth over $5 trillion in the next 20 years and Everitt believes joint government-industry initiatives such as the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) are providing the right incentives for investors.

Everitt told The Engineer that Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group, and Fabrice Brégier, president and CEO of Airbus, have independently confirmed that action being taken in the UK is positively influencing investment decisions here.

‘We imagine…that in the coming months, and the rest of this year, we will see further indications that major global players are looking anew at the UK and their investment opportunities here,’ he said.

Jeegar Kakkad, director of policy and chief economist at ADS agreed that government sees the long-term benefits to the economy of aerospace in terms of innovation, exports and higher-paid jobs, but Everitt believes further measures are needed to make the UK more attractive, with the Treasury having a pivotal role in this.

The UK’s R&D tax credit regime currently provides a 10 per cent credit against allowable expenditure, a figure Everitt wants to see steadily increased.

He said: ‘In Europe there are good examples of R&D tax credit regimes of 13-15 per cent, and globally around 18-20 per cent…a commitment over time to ensure that the R&D tax credit regime is made globally competitive, in the same way that he [the chancellor] has made a commitment around corporation tax…would be incredibly significant.’

25% of the value of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is made in the UK, the largest proportion outside of the USA

25% of the value of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is made in the UK, the largest proportion outside of the USA

Furthermore, March 2013 saw the publication of ‘Lifting Off – Implementing the Strategic Vision for UK Aerospace’ in which AGP acknowledged the difficulties encountered by SMEs at the start of a period of potential growth.

‘Very often growing demand is quite challenging.’ said Everitt. ‘You need much more cash – your cash flow gets impacted because you need to buy more raw materials, buy more labour. Payment terms are not necessarily going to be wholly matching up, so there’s a cash flow implication. There is also a need…[for] new plant machinery and suchlike.’

To overcome these hurdles, Everitt believes the current annual investment allowance – which raised the maximum annual investment allowance from £25,000 to £250,000 until 2015 – should be extended too.

He said this would give SMEs the appropriate encouragement to invest in new plant and machinery and improve cash flow as certain corporation tax liabilities can be offset through the capital allowance regime.

Further tax incentives could be provided for companies wanting to build new facilities, given that the UK is the only OECD and G20 nation that doesn’t have a specific tax allowance for new building facilities.

‘We think that’s one area that would demonstrate that we in the UK were doing everything we could to encourage existing investors to invest in new buildings but also potentially new entrants to the market,’ he said.

Pending these reforms, Everitt said the first priority is for the UK to sustain its market share in a growing global market where Kakkad sees further opportunities supplying nations looking to grow their domestic capabilities.

‘Clearly over time we would like to think that we could grow our market share,’ said Everitt. ‘But we shouldn’t be fooling ourselves that that’s going to be an easy ask.’

20% of each Airbus aircraft is made in the UK

20% of each Airbus aircraft is made in the UK

Established and emerging markets will provide opportunities and challenges for the Britain and an initiative launched by ADS aims to highlight activity in the global market, and the UK’s success within it.

According to Everitt, the recently launched Commercial Aircraft and Engine Orders and Deliveries report is designed to remind industry of the opportunities for the UK within the sector.

Maintaining a steady supply of aerospace engineers is another motive for producing the report.

‘That is one of the reasons why we are quite keen to send these signals about the growth in civil aerospace: to reassure students – and often their parents – that a career in aerospace and aerospace manufacturing is going to be a long-term and rewarding one.’

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BAE Systems and MoD extend Typhoon agreement

30 January 2014

BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence have agreed to extend the Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) for the in-service support of the RAF’s Typhoon fleet by 12 months until the end of 2014.

Under the £100m TAS contract, BAE Systems is responsible for delivering Typhoon aircrew and ground crew training, maintenance and the servicing of the aircraft, providing technical support and managing spares, repairs and logistics.

BAE Systems supports the fleet at RAF Coningsby, RAF Leuchars and the Falkland Islands.

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Chancellor announces £60m investment in aerospace

17 January 2014

The chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne has announced £60m of new funding for the development of new aerospace technology at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry. 

The government will provide £30m in funding, which will be matched by industry.

In a statement the chancellor said: ‘Up to 27,000 new planes are needed between now and 2030, worth billions of pounds to the UK economy in contracts. That is why I am announcing…that, together with industry, we will invest around £60m in a dedicated facility for aerospace manufacturing as part of £2bn of support for this growing sector.’

The chancellor made the announcement yesterday, January 16, 2013 at a visit to the Manufacturing Technology Centre, part of the government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres that promote high-end manufacturing in the UK.

The aerospace facility will allow companies to develop new materials such as lightweight carbon fibre for use in planes, jet engines and civil helicopters that will be exported globally. The funding will also support the creation of a national centre for Additive Manufacturing to develop new products for aero-engines and aircraft landing gears, as well as automotive and medical devices.

This investment is part of the £2bn of joint government and industry funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute that will be invested in the sector over the next seven years. 

Dick Elsy, chief executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult said: ‘This is a very exciting time for manufacturing in the UK. In the two years since its formation, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult is set to exceed its targets in terms of the investment generated from industry, the projects secured and the collaborative R&D delivered.

‘It is clear that industry recognises and embraces the opportunities that we offer and this latest expansion of capability at the MTC is a tremendous new resource which will help the UK’s high value manufacturing sector – and the aerospace sector in particular – to continue to go from strength to strength.’

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Astronauts to don skin-tight suit to prevent spine growth

13 January 2014

British scientists have helped develop a suit to prevent astronauts developing back problems while in space.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) “Skinsuit” was developed to stop astronauts’ spines from lengthening by replicating the force usually provided by gravity to hold the vertebrae together tightly.

Without this force, visitors to space can grow in height by up 7cm, a process that gradually reverses once they return to Earth but also causing backache and a fourfold increased chance of slipping a disc.

The Skinsuit, created by the Space Medicine Office of ESA’s European Astronaut Centre and tested by scientists at Kings College London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, effectively squeezes the body from shoulders to feet to prevent this problem.

‘We needed to create a suit that is both tight-fitting but comfortable to wear, while creating the right amount of force in the right places,’ said Simon Evetts, Medical Projects and Technology Unit team leader at the European Astronaut Centre.

The current prototype is made from spandex with a specially designed bi-directional weave to replicate the force of the Earth’s gravity but the scientists are examining the use of other materials for future versions.

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will be the first to wear the suit in space during his mission in 2015.

The Skinsuit also has potential for use on Earth as well as for astronauts, said Evetts. ‘If the technology is effective in space, it could help the elderly and many people with lower-back problems on Earth. Additionally, Skinsuit technology could improve the support garments currently used for conditions like cerebral palsy.’

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