14 May 02. The four WATCHKEEPER teams, BAE SYSTEMS’ Vigilant Team, Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems, Northrop Grumman and Thales have submitted their bids for Project Watchkeeper bid to the UK Defence Procurement Agency. A down-selection decision to two contractors is expected in September of this year.
Project Watchkeeper will use UAVs, equipped with powerful, all weather sensors, to gather real-time imagery from behind enemy lines, and relay it to ground stations where critical intelligence will be extracted and disseminated. Already used successfully by the US in Afghanistan, these systems are set to transform warfare by providing critical information to commanders on the ground, without putting aircrew in harm’s way.
The bid is for the Systems Integration and Assurance Phase (SIAP) of the programme, which provides detailed system design definition and conducts risk reduction work in preparation for the development and manufacture phase.
From an altitude of up to 25,000 feet, sensors will gather accurate, high-resolution, information in all weathers, night and day across the radiation spectrum onboard aerial platforms which provide a range of options in terms of altitude, endurance and sensor package to suit a land component commander. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Moving Target Indicator (MTI) Electro Optical (EO) and Infra Red (IR) devices will transmit real-time data over secure links to give a far higher accuracy than a less advanced video streaming solution. In addition, the sensors will incorporate auto-tracking and laser range-finding/illumination facilities to provide a reduced sensor to shooter time.
This information will be processed by vehicle-mounted Ground Control Stations (GCS) which control the air vehicles and exploit the raw intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data. The Lockheed Martin Team will make use of advanced systems design and engineering tools developed by Skunk Works and Lockheed Martin Mission & Data Systems for US ISTAR programmes (such as U2, Senior Ruby/Senior Scout and All Source Analysis System (ASAS) Block II and other classified programmes) will allow land commanders continuous access to situational data, while simultaneously transmitting crucial information to aircraft and ground troops via remote viewing terminals.
Lockheed Martin has adopted an approach that focuses on the architecture and operation of the system within an increasingly digitised battlespace. To enable the most capable and flexible system to be provided at the most affordable price, Lockheed Martin has scoured the world to find the best technology available. By then applying its considerable systems integration skills, these components will be brought together to create a system that is more capable than the sum of its parts.
Ron Christenson, Group Managing Director of Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems said: “The technologies to do this are here today, the problem is gluing them together in a fashion that meets the MOD’s requirements and, perhaps more challenging, adapts as these requirements change and new technologies mature.”
Usability has also been a big driver and Lockheed Martin has included a number of innovative approaches aimed specifically at creating a system that allows Watchkeeper to mould itself to the users needs. The system can adapt to those needs as the deeper capabilities of Lockheed Martin’s Watchkeeper solution are further explored.
With this in mind, the involvement of Lockheed Martin’s world renowned ‘Skunk Works’ ensures that their approach, whilst meeting today’s requirement, has a close eye on the future.
Lockheed Martin’s bid combines its unrivalled knowledge of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) sector and its systems integration expertise. Lockheed Martin is the company that, in many ways, created the ISTAR concept as we know it today with the U2 and other classified proj