The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence on Monday unveiled a prototype unmanned combat aircraft that's intended to strike targets on different continents.
The drone, made by BAE Systems and called Taranis (after the Celtic god of thunder -- really), is one step on the way to developing the world's first autonomous, stealth Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) with long-range capability -- far enough to strike targets on another continent.
The aircraft is controlled by military crews on the ground, and comes with a £142.5 million, or approx. $214 million USD, price tag, according to the UK's Daily Mail.
A few quick stats about Taranis:
- It's nearly invisible to ground radar.
- It's designed to travel at "jet speeds."
- With onboard sensors, it's intended for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in enemy territory.
- It can also carry weapons, including bombs and missiles.
- It can be controlled from anywhere in the world using satellite communication.
- The plane began development in December 2006.
- It's the U.K.'s answer to U.S. supremacy in the stealth aircraft sector.
"Taranis has been three and a half years in the making and is the product of more than a million man-hours," said Nigel Whitehead, managing director of BAE Systems' Programmes & Support business, in a statement.
"It represents a significant step forward in this country's fast-jet capability. This technology is key to sustaining a strong industrial base and to maintain the UK's leading position as a center for engineering excellence and innovation."
Initial ground-based testing began this year. The first flight is expected to take place in 2011.