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British fighter jets use 3D printed parts in successful test flight

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3D printed guns might be formally illegal in the UK, but that hasn't stopped the country's armed forces from adopting the technology for military purposes. Defense company BAE says that in December, British Tornado fighter aircraft conducted successful test flights with parts made in 3D printers for the first time. The metal parts were created by BAE at a Royal Air Force base in Norfolk for four squadrons of Tornado GR4 jets.

BBC News reports the technology could cut the RAF's maintenance bill by more than £1.2 million ($1.96 million) over the next four years. Some of the parts created with 3D printers — including covers for cockpit radios and support struts for working on air intake doors — cost less than £100 ($163) to make. In addition to the reduced cost, BAE's head of airframe integration, Mike Murray, said 3D printing would give the RAF more logistical freedom in future operations. Murray said that 3D printers would allow the construction of military parts and products at "whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there."