Tag Archives: BAe Systems

Transformer jets, self-healing aircraft and UAVs printed with 3D printers: future of aviation unveiled

Scientists and engineers at BAE Systems have released some interesting details about some futuristic technologies that could be operative by 2040. Or earlier.

BAE Systems has been studying futuristic aircraft shapes for quite some time.

The projects the British Defense company is  working on were recently unveiled through a series of animations which show how civil and military aviation of the future could be based on 3D printers capable to print UAVs on-the-fly during a mission; aircraft that can heal themselves; a Transformer long range aircraft which splits into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its target, and a directed energy weapon that could engage missiles at the speed of light.

The Transformer is a flexible aircraft system that combines smaller jets: it’s a sort of mothership made of smaller sub-aircraft which can be combined together to increase the range, reduce the overall aerodynamic drag and save fuel during the transit to the area of operations.

Once the mothership has reached the target area, each single craft can split off to conduct its specific mission: attack, surveillance, airdrop to name but few.

The Survivor technology will be used to develop new aircraft and give them the possibility repair any damage sustained during the mission in flight.

The self-healing technology could improve survivability of the aircraft employed in high lethality scenarios. It is based on advanced materials: “a lightweight adhesive fluid inside a pattern of carbon nanotubes from which the aircraft is constructed and is released when damaged to quickly ‘set’ mid-flight and heal any damage,” according to BAE Systems.

Directed Energy Systems (something that has been studied in the U.S. for a long time)  is instead an on board weapon used to concentrate a low cost beam of energy at the speed of light against enemy aircraft, weapons (missiles, mortars, projecticles). In other words, it could be a laser cannon, used to hit and destroy ground and air targets with much accuracy.

Furthermore, BAE Systems foresees the use of hi-tech on-board 3D Printers that, via Additive Layer Manufacturing and robotic assembly techniques, could be used to create small unmanned aircraft on-the-fly, based on the inputs sent by a human operator from the ground control station. Needless to say, such a way to create drones could be useful in various types of mission, including air strike, surveillance or SAR (Search And Rescue) operations, during which drone copters could be created to rescue and recover single civilians or soldiers.

Even more interestingly, “after use the UAVs could render themselves useless through dissolving circuit boards or they might safely land in a recoverable position if re-use was required,” in order to prevent capture.

Even if these concepts may seem a bit futuristic and remind Terminator or Transformer movies, they will probably be the base of the future aerial warfare.

Close up video of the British Stealth Pole Model

Here’s an interesting video of the full size model of the BAE Replica mounted on a pole at BAe Warton facility, in the UK.

On Feb. 18, a full size model of the BAe Replica, a British stealth aircraft built in the 1990s for the development of the FOAS (Future Offensive Air System) was filmed at BAE Systems facilities at Warton, in Lancashire, England.

The aircraft was being moved to be installed, inverted, on a pole: the typical configuration used for testing the radar signature of a plane. Even the most secret planes have been their radar cross section tested while mounted inverted (and upright) on a pole, just like the British model.

The FOAS was a study aimed at finding a replacement for the RAF Tornado GR4 that was cancelled in 2005.

Whilst the F-35 is going to be replacement of the  Tornado GR4, the Taranis UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) a semi-autonomous pilotless system that will be able to carry a various types of weapons, including PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and air-to-air missiles, emerged as the eventual successor of the FOAS.

What remains unclear is what kind of tests the BAe Replica is supporting.

Considered that BAe is teamed with Lockheed Martin in the F-35 program, it may be something related to the Joint Strike Fighter: most probably nothing really sensitive, otherwise it would be done in the U.S. Or a domestic project for a low observable plane?

 

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Eurofighter Typhoon with conformal fuel tanks

A Typhoon model fitted with conformal fuel tanks

CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks) have always been one of the features Eurofighter was thinking about since the Typhoon was pitched for the Indian MMRCA (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft) and UAE fighter deals.

It looks like BAE Systems has eventually started the testing that will help to accelerate the clearance process by assessing the aerodynamic characteristics of carrying two fuselage mounted conformal fuel tank at the company’s world class high speed wind tunnel facility in the UK.

Actually, a mock up Typhoon was already fitted with CFTs and showcased at several exhibitions and airshows around the world, including Al Ain, earlier this year, where photographer Luigi Sani took the image below.

Typhoon CFT Al Ain

Image credit: BAe Systems (Top); Luigi Sani (Bottom).

The Typhoon is not only getting the CFTs: testing has also started to integrate air-launched cruise missiles, like the Storm Shadow and the Taurus.

 

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Mystery Stealth aircraft spotted in UK. A cancelled Black Project being revived?

A video recently shot at BAE Warton shows a mystery stealth jet moved upside down. Not a (current) Black Project, still interesting.

The following footage was shot on Feb. 18, near BAE Systems facilities at Warton, in Lancashire, England.

The aircraft being moved is probably a full size model of the BAE Replica, a British stealth aircraft model developed by BAE in the 1990s and used for radar testing before its associated program, the FOAS (Future Offensive Air System), was cancelled in 2005.

The FOAS was a study aimed at finding a replacement for the RAF Tornado GR4. After the program was scrapped, it was replaced by the Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability (DPOC) program that was itself cancelled in 2010, following the UK military’s spending review.

The Taranis UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) a semi-autonomous pilotless system that will feature an intercontinental range and will be able to carry a wide variety of weapons, including PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and air-to-air missiles, emerged as the eventual successor of the FOAS.

Anyway, the experience done by the BAE with the full-scale model of the BAE Replica is believed to be useful for the F-35, that is going to be the actual replacement for the Tornado GR4.

What’s unclear is what the airplane was doing in the open (and upside down). For sure nothing really secret (otherwise it would have been covered).

It’s been used for some additional tests on stealth technologies/designs? Something useful for the Taranis project or something else?

 

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These are the first images of UK’s classified unmanned stealth “superdrone”

Although the footage was shot in August 2013, today BAE Systems released it for the first time.

Taranis“, the technological demonstrator of UK’s stealthy unmanned combat vehicle made its first flight on Aug. 10, 2013. Where the maiden sortie took place remains a secret.

The aircraft flew at the old British Nuclear test range at Woomera, Australia.

The only thing we know is that the “superdrone” flew under the command of BAE Systems’ test pilot Bob Fraser and “made a perfect take off, rotation, ‘climb out’ and landing.”

Since then, a number of other test flights have taken place in much secrecy.

“Taranis” is an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), described as “the most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers”.

It’s a semi-autonomous pilotless system that will feature an intercontinental range and will be able to carry a wide variety of weapons, including PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and air-to-air missiles.

The Royal Air Force already operates a fleet of Reaper drones from RAF Waddington airbase.

Image credit: BAE Systems

 

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