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NORTHROP GRUMMAN AND THALES DOWNSELECTED FOR WATCHKEEPER

7 Feb 03. As BATTLESPACE predicted in BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.5 ISSUE 3
January 20th 2003, ‘COULD U.K. CARRIER DECISION SPUR BREAK UP OF BAE SYSTEMS?’,Northrop Grumman and Thales have been downselected from the four contenders (which included BAE SYSTEMS and Lockheed Martin that were invited to undertake the first stage of the Assessment Phase and to propose tenders for the second stage), for the next stage of the UK Watchkeeper UAV programme. WATCHKEEPER is a network-enabled unmanned system that will deliver an integrated image intelligence, targeting and exploitation capability to meet the U.K. commander’s critical information needs. The WATCHKEEPER program has a potential value of more than £800m, $1.2bn).

The MoD stated that, the New Chapter of the Strategic Defence Review, published last year, highlighted the key part that UAVs will play in contributing to network enabled capability, in order to improve our ability to find, identify and act decisively against the enemy. UAVs will be linked with ‘strike’ systems, including artillery, army attack helicopters or ground attack aircraft.

Lord Bach, Minister for Defence Procurement, said: “Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicle systems will be an invaluable addition to our military capability. They will play a vital role in providing our armed forces with timely intelligence to identify the threat, enabling us to strike faster and more decisively. Military commanders will be able to get high quality images as Watchkeeper tracks targets right up until the moment they are destroyed.

“Watchkeeper will have a huge impact in providing our forces with the
best capability, as cost effectively as possible.”

Watchkeeper is planned to be in service for 30 years, with an initial operating capability in early 2006. The Watchkeeper programme will be complemented by the Joint Service UAV Experimentation Programme (JUEP), which will assess the wider operational use of UAVs in the tri- service battle environment.

Initial Gate approval for Watchkeeper was given in 2000 and the Main Gate decision is expected in mid 2004. Northrop Grumman ISS International and Thales (UK) have now been selected to continue through to the second stage. The Thales (UK) team includes Aerosystems International, Elbit Systems Limited and QinetiQ and Northrop Grumman ISS International team includes BAE Systems, Detica Limited, General Dynamics UK Limited, STAYSYS Limited and Ultra Electronics Limited.

The Northrop Grumman industry team is led by Northrop Grumman ISS International Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary, and includes a combination of U.S. and U.K. companies. The team recently completed the system definition phase of WATCHKEEPER and will now continue with the system integration and assurance phase. The team has been working closely with the Ministry of Defence for two years to define a solution that fills the U.K. warfighter’s need for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) with a balanced approach to deliver the best capability at the lowest risk.

“The Ministry of Defence’s selection of the Northrop Grumman industry team recognizes the validity of the network-centric, system-of-systems approach we have proposed for the WATCHKEEPER program,” said Marty Dandridge, executive vice president and general manager, Unmanned Systems. “As we enter this critical phase, our experience in integrating proven unmanned systems will be critical to the design of a robust system that is flexible and agile enough to meet the evolving requirements of our U.K. customer.”

Northrop Grumman is evaluating several unmanned systems to meet the requirements of the WATCHKEEPER systems architecture, including the U.S. Navy RQ-8A Fire Scout system presently in the flight test phase of engineering and manufacturing development. Northrop Grumman’s international industry team includes the company’s Electronic Systems sector, Baltimore, Md.; its Information Technology sector, Herndon,

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