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QinetiQ’s Airborne Technology Demonstrator (ATD) has conducted a flight test with the combat aircraft nose system (fast jet radome) installed onto an RJ100 regional jet, paving the way to future radar and sensor integration capability, the company announced on 8 August 2023.

The flight test, made in partnership with BAE Systems and underpinned by QinetiQ’s Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA) with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), will enable the ATD to support a range of future programmes, as the aircraft expands its offering as the most capable flying testbed available in the UK to support a variety of technology developments in the sector. The ATD will now become a core test, trials training and evaluation (T3E) capability offering under the LTPA.

The flight also represents the first major MoD trial conducted as a Category 1 Flight Test and is the first trial of its kind in the UK for 30 years.

QinetiQ’s Airborne Technology Demonstrator is based on an RJ100 regional jet airliner. (Photo: QinetiQ)

“The addition of the radome is an exciting development in UK flight test capability and builds on QinetiQ’s Aviation Engineering Centre (AEC) exceptional track record in aircraft design and modification: a key T3E offering under the LTPA,” QinetiQ stated in a press release.

The addition of the radome is just the latest in a series of modifications to the RJ100-based ATD. Transformed into a flying laboratory and classroom, the platform provides power and data backbones and multiple flexible workstations to enable research and development projects to be quickly and easily integrated.

“A bespoke, modular multi-role capability that meets the requirements of both military and civil customers, the ATD supports cost-effective specialist training, experimentation, air carriage, and test and evaluation activities,” QinetiQ stated. “The aircraft is purpose built to simplify the route of getting technology under development into airborne environment.”

“Building on QinetiQ’s Aviation Engineering Centre’s exceptional track record in aircraft design and modification, the ATD represents an exciting development in UK flight test capability,” Nic Anderson, the company’s chief executive for UK defence projects, was quoted as saying. “Working with BAE Systems in collaboration to support the development of future sensors and technology is a great demonstration of our expertise in aviation engineering, airworthiness and test and evaluation.”

Steve Wynd, engineering director for the Air Sector within BAE Systems, added, “Using a flying test bed in this way allows us to much more rapidly test, develop and prove new digital technologies, with particular focus on model-based systems engineering. We’re really excited in the potential this provides and look forward to our continued collaboration with QinetiQ.”

Peter Felstead