Watchkeeper win for Ultra

Ultra Electronics’ Sonar & Communication Systems business has been awarded a contract worth over £10m to develop and supply secure data links for the UK’s Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle programme.


Ultra Electronics’ Sonar & Communication Systems business, based in Greenford, Middlesex, has been awarded a contract worth over £10m to develop and supply secure data links for the UK’s Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programme.



The Watchkeeper tactical UAV system will provide the British armed forces with an Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. It is due to enter service with the British Army in 2010.



Ultra has been awarded the order by Cubic Defense Applications, San Diego, CA, USA. Under the contract, Ultra will work with Cubic to develop two separate data links: the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) and the High Integrity Data Link (HIDL).



The TCDL will enable Watchkeeper to transfer time-critical information to ground control stations from multiple UAVs operating in the same geographical area without mutual interference. The HIDL is used for the secure and covert command and control of multiple UAVs in flight and will also provide Watchkeeper with a versatile, programmable back-up air-to-ground link for tactical battlespace information. The data links are a vital element in the UK’s network-enabled capability and in ensuring interoperability with other NATO forces.


Ultra will also be responsible for the development of high-grade encryption modules for the two links. Ultra will manufacture hardware for both data links, with deliveries commencing in 2007. It is intended that the future support for the Watchkeeper data links will be supplied by Ultra to the British Army over the life of the programme.