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BAE, MoD Complete Classified Nightjar Program

BAE Systems and the UK MoD have completed to time and budget the second and final phase of a six-year joint programme aimed at increasing UK design and manufacturing know-how for a new generation of air vehicles.

The data collected will be central to leading-edge programmes, including the £124 million Taranis technology demonstrator programme recently announced as part of the UK Defence Industrial Strategy. BAE Systems is the industry lead and prime contractor of this joint project to develop a stealthy UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle).

The previously classified Nightjar programme began in 2000 and its unique testbody has been used to test new features, which could be crucial for the future of air vehicle design. The testbody was designed to have a very low radar signature so that technologies fitted on it could be tested without the body itself figuring in the test results.

The Nightjar programme provided valuable data on issues surrounding design, aerodynamics, manufacturing and in-service performance.

Mounted on the radar cross section (RCS) measurement facility at BAE Systems’ Warton site, the Nightjar testbody was subjected to a range of tests that provided vital data on air induction systems (intake and ducts) performance. In parallel, the team carried out a series of wind tunnel tests on the same designs to assess their performance and add to the overall understanding.

The Ministry of Defence, Defence Procurement Agency and Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) have all acknowledged that being embedded within the Nightjar team was a major factor leading to the success of this programme.

Gary Carman, the MoD’s senior representative on the Nightjar programme commented: “The joint Nightjar programme has been absolutely invaluable in ensuring the funding available was spent on addressing the technology issues most important to us. It has reduced a number of future risks and given us the knowledge base that will enable us to understand and deliver cost-effective solutions, in terms of technology trade offs, to meet the UK’s future requirements.”

Mark Kane, managing director for Autonomous Systems and Future Capability at BAE Systems, added: “”We used our rapid prototyping and engineering expertise to deliver value-for-money results. Equally important was having the customer and his technology advisors as an integral part of the Nightjar team in line with Defence Industrial Strategy principles. A build-up of trust during the programme resulted in a simplified MoD decision-making process and a noticeable improvement in our ability to respond to their enquiries.”


BAE Systems is the premier transatlantic defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 88,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded 12 billion pounds (US22 billion dollars) in 2005, excluding the Group's former interest in Airbus.

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