Britain’s Defunct Stealth Jet Design Makes Surprise Reappearance

What is Replica doing out in the open?

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

The thing being moved is the full-size model of BAE’s Replica stealth fighter design, which the company developed in the 1990s before its associated program, the Future Offensive Air System, ended in 2005.

BAE used the model for radar-detection tests, mounting the non-flying airframe upside down to a pole. Replica radar tests reportedly came to a close in 1999.

But Replica lived on, even after FOAS’ cancellation. The experimental jet’s general shape helped influence the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an American-led stealth warplane development in which the U.K.—and BAE Systems in particular—has a big stake.

FOAS was meant to eventually replace the Royal Air Force’s Tornado strike planes. London scrapped the program and replaced it with the Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability initiative—itself cancelled in 2010 following a major military spending review.

Today the RAF is buying F-35s to supplant the Tornadoes. The U.K. might also purchase combat drones based on BAE’s new Taranis demonstrator. The pilotless warplane could boast intercontinental range while carrying a variety of precision-guided weapons.

Despite the programmatic tumult, Replica was far from a waste, as it informed the F-35’s design and helped keep BAE on the aerospace cutting edge.

What’s unclear is what exactly the Replica model is doing out in the open 15 years after the program ended. For sure nothing truly secret, otherwise BAE would have covered it.

Is Replica undergoing additional tests? Perhaps something related to Taranis?

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