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19 Jul 02. The 2002 Farnborough Airshow will be a crucial venue for the four companies vying to win selection for the next stage of the U.K.’s Watchkeeper UAV programme. U.K. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced as part of his New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review that the Watchkeeper UAV requirement Systems Integration and Assurance Phase down-select decision would be accelerated with a decision made in August between BAE SYSTEMS, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Thales.

His statement that U.S. interoperability would be key to Watchkeeper would appear to favour those contractors with strong U.S. connections. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the MoD is wary of choosing a contractor with an Israeli based solution as this may cause problems with deployment in the Gulf. In addition the early day Motion supporting a ban of Israeli arms procurement has reached over 100 signatures and has the support of some Conservative and LibDem M.P’s.

Northrop Grumman will be announcing their Watchkeeper solution on the Monday of Farnborough whilst yesterday Lockheed Martin unveiled its international partners for the forthcoming UK MOD Watchkeeper (SIAP).

A key component of the system is the EADS Eagle UAV, which will be the higher flying, long endurance air vehicle for Lockheed Martin’s Watchkeeper bid. Last month, the Eagle was demonstrated successfully by EADS to the Swedish MOD at Kiruna, Sweden, in front of an international audience including representation by the UK MOD. The Eagle UAV system was downselected by the Swedish MOD following a competitive assessment, where it was found superior (in performance and price) to other candidates such as the Predator, I-Gnat, Hermes 450 and 1500
The list of partners announced by Lockheed Martin includes:

Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems (UK) – Prime Contractor and overall systems integrator.

INSYS (UK) – Installation and integration of all ground systems, including ground control stations (GCSs), launch and recovery vehicles (LRVs), remote viewing terminals (RVTs).

EADS (UK) – Supplier of the Eagle ‘A’ air vehicle and Ground Control Station software.

Meggitt (UK) – Supplier of the Spectre 3 ‘B’ air vehicle with advanced EO/IR sensors and an Eagle downsized data link to provide commonality and interoperability.

QinetiQ (UK) – Key enabling technologies derived from its research programmes and UAV activities.

Supacat (UK) – Supply of latest 6×6 High Mobility Trucks (HMT) to meet the Watchkeeper mobility requirement.

Aerosystems International (UK) – Software integration.

Systems Consultants Services (UK) – Advisors on concept of operations and doctrine.

In addition to the four companies General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator UAV, so successful in Afghanistan will be showing its products including airborne demonstrations of its Lynx UAV radar selected for trials by the U.S. Army.

We are also covering details of WATCHKEEPER in our June/July BATTLESPACE News issue that will also cover a feature on the Northrop Grumman TUAVR radar and developments in the German UAV programme

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