The UK Ministry of Defence has finally signed off on the Watchkeeper tactical unmanned air system for the British Army, awarding the system a formal Release to Service. The RTS award brings to an end a process to certificate the Watchkeeper for military service that has dragged on approximately three years longer than originally anticipated.
BAE Systems Phoenix
Anglo-French cooperation on MALE UAVs may have stalled, according to reports from Paris and from informed sources AIN spoke to at the Farnborough International airshow yesterday. However, it appears that that the proposed joint UCAV study will still be sanctioned when French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visits London on July 24.
The Hermes 450 UAV designed by Israel’s Elbit Systems has been acquired as a surveillance platform by at least 10 countries, including Singapore, but only the UK has requested major changes.
The Thales-led Watchkeeper program is on schedule for entry into service with British forces in 2010, having flown for the first time this year in Israel, where Elbit Systems designed and produced the Hermes 450 WK platform. Designated Hermes 450B, it will have a dual payload comprising gimbaled electro-optical/infrared cameras plus a laser target designator, together with a radar in a second gimbaled pod.
Elbit Systems has been awarded a contract valued at some $20 million to supply Hermes 450 UAV systems to an unnamed European country. The order specifies both air vehicles and complementary ground systems, for delivery next year.\
The final configuration of the Thales Watchkeeper UAV for the British Army is unveiled here, outside the Thales pavilion. Now that the critical design review is successfully accomplished, Thales is showing this intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) system to other potential customers.
The UK Ministry of Defence is preparing to issue an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) for an unmanned aerial surveillance system to help British troops fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Some–maybe all–of the likely contending systems are on display here.