Visitors to the Royal International Air Tattoo’s row of corporate hospitality chalets are being “greeted” by a full-scale model of an armed unmanned air vehicle which is close to making its first flight for manufacturer BAE Systems.

Unveiled at last year’s Farnborough air show and intended to deliver a national alternative to systems such as the General Atomics Predator B/Reaper, BAE’s Mantis is being produced as a concept demonstrator to whet the appetite of the UK Ministry of Defence.

 Mantis RIAT 2009
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International

The model on show at RIAT is pictured carrying a representative combat weapons load of four Raytheon Systems Paveway IV 226kg (500lb) precision-guided bombs and two air-to-surface missiles resembling MBDA’s Brimstone design.

BAE won’t say when it expects the Mantis to conduct its first flight, but the tactical UAV has already been assembled at the Woomera test range in South Australia in advance of the milestone event.