Feeds

Blighty's stealth robojet rolls out a year late

But it preserved Brits' jobs at BAE! Well, some of them

High performance access to file storage

The UK's "Taranis" robot stealth jet has finally rolled out of assembly, the year after it was supposed to be in ground testing.

The Taranis UCAV at its rollout ceremony. Credit: BAE Systems

Doesn't even save British jobs, let alone lives

Taranis, a jet-fighter-sized unmanned aircraft of the same general sort as the USA's X-45, X-47 and Phantom Ray roboplanes, has been under construction by BAE Systems and allied firms since 2006. It was supposed to enter ground testing last year and fly this year, but problems were encountered and the project is running late. Flight trials are now expected next year, and initial expected cost to the taxpayer of £125m has now reportedly risen to £143m.

Robo-bombers developed from today's prototype might conceivably replace the RAF's Tornado bombers, scheduled to retire in 2025. But 2025 is a long way off, and in the meantime the RAF is a lot more interested in jazzing up its new Eurofighters to be more capable of ground attack duties. The Taranis project wasn't kicked off in 2006 because the RAF wanted it. Rather, Taranis was begun to give BAE Systems' fighter design team something to do. With the Eurofighter largely finished and no new RAF business on the horizon for decades, the future of the design shops at BAE's fighter factories was looking highly uncertain.

"This technology is key to sustaining a strong industrial base," said BAE exec Nigel Whitehead, speaking at Monday's rollout ceremony.

The Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) of 2005, under which the Taranis project was begun a year later, says:

Our plans ... to invest in developing [Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle] technology – will also provide us with the core industrial skills required to contribute to any future international manned fast jet programme, should the requirement for one emerge. This recognises both the uncertainty of our very long term requirements ... and that we should avoid continuing to fund industrial capabilities for which we have no identified requirement.

It has long been recognised, however - even by BAE Systems - that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) doesn't have the money to afford the higher prices that the DIS calls for. Furthermore, Blighty's fighter factories haven't built a new plane on their own since the 1960s: all the UK forces' current aircraft are full of imported technology and have been for decades.

The new government is currently carrying out a full defence review in which all previous assumptions may be overturned - and in which severe cuts are expected. It would seem at least possible that Taranis and its builders may be reclassified soon as "an industrial capability for which we have no identified requirement".

Certainly local MP Mark Menzies - many of whose constituents work at BAE's Warton and Samlesbury sites - is worried.

"We are not just talking about Tranche 3B of the Typhoon but also the possible effect on the unmanned Taranis project, which could yet be subject to some of the cuts," he told the Blackpool Gazette last week.

"I will continue to fight for the protection of jobs," added the MP.

Giving BAE the Taranis project seems to have done little to preserve jobs, however. BAE's total global workforce was 106,400 strong as of publication of its most recent corporate responsibility report, up from 97,500 the year before, but barely a quarter are Brits. The company's British workforce continues to shrink as it has done now consistently for many years, with seven per cent having been sacked just in 2009. BAE Systems has shed more than 13,000 UK employees since 2001. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.