Thales UK awarded £700 million

The Ministry of Defence and Thales UK have signed a £700 million contract for the full Development, Manufacture and Initial Support (DMIS) phases of the WATCHKEEPER programme.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Thales UK have signed a contract worth £700 million for the full Development, Manufacture and Initial Support (DMIS) phases of the WATCHKEEPER programme. WATCHKEEPER will provide the UK armed forces with an Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability based on an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) system and will be a key component of the UK‘s Network Enabled Capability (NEC).

This programme will deliver equipment, training and facilities, with the capability coming into service from 2010.

According to Thales, WATCHKEEPER will provide UK Armed Forces with all weather day and night surveillance in times of war, tension or during peacekeeping operations, without the need to deploy troops into sensitive areas or harmful situations. The WATCHKEEPER system can provide continuous 24/7 surveillance when needed, using unmanned air vehicles able to stay airborne for more than 16 hours each.

The WATCHKEEPER system consists of the WK450 unmanned air vehicle carrying day/night sensors and laser target designator connected by a data link to a network of containerised Ground Control Stations where army operators will control the whole mission and interface within a network enabled environment. WATCHKEEPER will support the information requirements of all three services and will be operated by the Royal Artillery.

The Thales UK WATCHKEEPER program will create or sustain up to 2100 jobs, all of which will be in the UK. Thales UK has established a JV company with Elbit Systems in Leicester to manufacture, support and upgrade tactical UAV sub-systems for both WATCHKEEPER and the rapidly growing worldwide UAV systems market which is estimated to be worth around £3 billion over the next 10 years.