We’ve waited a long time for details of the UK’s Taranis flight test campaign to emerge, but BAE Systems (company-sourced image below) and the Ministry of Defence have finally broken their silence about the programme.
It turns out that the first Taranis flight took place on 10 August 2013, at an undisclosed test location (although the smart money’s on the Woomera range in South Australia). Multiple additional sorties were conducted in a first programme phase, but exact numbers are classified. You can read more about the programme on our defence news channel, and also see some video footage of the activity.
But here’s one of the more surprising aspects of this story: before the stealthy technology demonstrator was loaded into a Royal Air Force C-17 and flown overseas, BAE conducted low-speed taxi trials on the runway at its Warton site in Lancashire, in broad daylight and seemingly unnoticed.
Pop onto the Airliners.net website and you can see how many shots there are showing Typhoons and Tornados involved in flight testing, so it’s remarkable that no-one witnessed the event. No small amount of luck probably, but the company did up its chances by conducting the work on a Friday afternoon, and along a short stretch of tarmac which runs across the main strip. If any local spotters did see it and didn’t twig what it was, they should be kicking themselves!