Unmanned supersonic stealth combat aircraft ready to test

An artist's rendering of the Taranis. (BAE SYSTEMS HANDOUT)

An artist's rendering of the Taranis. (BAE SYSTEMS HANDOUT)

Simon Kent, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:37 PM ET

Course: check. Direction: check. Speed: check. Pilot: redundant.

Welcome to the robotic arms race.

As Canada resumes the seemingly endless debate about whether the RCAF's next combat fighter will be the troubled F-35 Lightning II or something else, Britain has moved on.

It has course, direction and speed plotted for the world's first unmanned supersonic stealth combat aircraft.

British aerospace giant BAE Systems is leading the consortium behind a delta-shaped aircraft known as Taranis. This "flying wing" could be the natural successor to the troubled F-35.

Resembling an oversize insect and using the technology seen in contemporary stealth aircraft -- such as America's B-2 Spirit bomber -- Taranis is designed to fly faster than the speed of sound over intercontinental distances.

Once within range of target and still undetected by enemy radar, it will attack with an array of standoff precision missiles and bombs.

Taranis mounts two internal weapons bays and is intended to incorporate "full autonomy" once airborne, allowing it to operate without human control for a large part of the mission.

Unlike current generation attack drones such as MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper -- used extensively to attack insurgent targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen -- Taranis will carry the latest in remote defensive technology to help it evade missiles and hostile manned aircraft.

All without a pilot, navigator or weapons officer and using a fast jet platform the same size as the RCAF's current CT-155 Hawk trainer.

The project is now so far advanced that flight testing will begin within weeks at the remote


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