UK Unveils New Robot Spy Plane

Some military experts believe that weaponized robots are the future of warfare, but the stealth element is never far behind. Enter: Robotic Spies.

The BBC reported yesterday on the unveiling of the UK’s new stealth surveillance aircraft. The plane, built by BAE Systems, is a UAV – an unmanned aerial vehicle – and goes by the names Corax and Raven. It apparently resembles a never-built US military spy plane referred to as DarkStar.

Bill Sweetman, Aerospace and Technology Editor of Jane’s International Defence Review, spoke with the BBC: “it’s very reminiscent of something that’s designed to fly fairly high, fairly slow and have quite a long endurance. It looks rather typical for a surveillance aircraft.” But they’re not going to stop there. The plan is to have numerous models – all with a similar central operating system, but with differing wing types to cater to the requirements of different sorts of missions. “If you take those long outer wings off and put on shorter swept wings, you have a somewhat faster aircraft that would be more of a penetrating strike platform.”

UK Spy Plane CoraxBoth the US and the UK plan to invest time and money in developing better stealth UAVs, and the Corax is the start of it all. Stealth in this context refers to making the vehicles less visible, if not completely invisible, to radar detection. With the Corax, the UK will be able to test what works and what doesn’t when it comes to plane stability, control and performance.

This is certainly not the first time robot spy planes have been in the news. In 2006, we heard of a ‘spies in the sky’ program, in which tiny drone airplanes with powerful cameras were to patrol EU borders against smugglers and illegal immigrants. A previously-built UK sky spy was used in the US to scout the Mexican border, and the US has also deployed UAVs widely in Afghanistan and Iraq. Belgium used spy planes to catch and prosecute tankers that were illegally dumping oil in the North Sea. Israel too has been a key player in the UAV game, allegedly using them extensively for surveillance and targeting known terrorist leaders.

Improved stealth technology is key – combine it with weapons engineer and manufacturer Jerry Baber’s AA-12 technology (a gun which shoots five shells per second with next to no recoil and can fire thousands of rounds without cleaning) – and you’ve got yourself the real future of warfare.

photo courtesy of BAE Systems

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