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12 May 04. Thales gave journalists details of its Industrial Participation programme which it has submitted as part of the £800m UK Watchkeeper requirement. The announcement of the selection of the preferred contractor is expected to be made after the summer recess with work starting in January 2005.

The DPA has said that the ISD is still on track in spite of perceived delays in selection, they have said that both contractors have demonstrated their abilities to meet these timescales.

Thales revealed plans to build sophisticated unmanned military aircraft in Britain in partnership with Israel’s Elbit. The two will form a new company which will have a new board consisting of personnel from both companies and be based in Leicester. Thales expects 130 people to be employed there.

The facility will consist of a dedicated UAV R&D, manufacturing, support, marketing and technology facility for UK armed forces and export. Thales and DESO have predicted that the world-wide UAV market will be worth £3bn over 3 years with the UK’s share expected to be some £400m. When asked by the Editor whether exports to Arab countries would be affected by the high Israeli content of the systems, Alex Cresswell said that the exports would be based on UK regulations, which may work in principal but in practice this high Israeli content must prove to be a problem for this new venture. Thales did not outline the actual territorial split of responsibilities but it is expected that Thales will meet the strong requirements from Australia and France. It is thought that more than 1,000 new jobs will be created and safeguarded by the project, giving a total of 2100 plus 400 for export. In addition there will be technology transfer agreements from Thales France and Israel to build this UK centre of UAV excellence. 100 jobs will be located at Craweley

Thales’s bid for the programme includes two types of aircraft, the Hermes 180 and 450, which are based on planes made by Elbit. The Thales consortium also includes Boeing, Logica CMG and Cubic. The rival consortium, led by American defence group Northrop Grumman, includes BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Ultra Electronics, Detica, Stasys, HVR Consulting and Ruag Aerospace. BATTLESPACE understand that Thales is developing its relationship with Boeing into the JUEP programme where unconfirmed sources suggest that the UK MOD is going to buy some Boeing ScanEagles, through THALES, for the maritime part of JUEP.

John Howe, Thales’ UK vice-chairman, said yesterday that if Thales won the Watchkeeper contract, it would create or sustain 2,500 jobs, “The Thales Watchkeeper team is offering the solution with superior capability, the highest number of high- quality UK jobs, technology transfer that will remain in the UK and in the control of the MoD and the creation of the only UK company able to compete globally in the tactical UAV market.”

General Sir Roger Wheeler, former CDS, outlined the operational concepts behind the Thales bid. He said that his operational experience in the Gulf, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Bosnia would have been enhanced if UAVs had been available in his inventory to see ‘over the horizon.’ He outlined plans for the deployment of the UAVs saying that the systems would be a Brigade asset being deployed as near as possible to Brigade HQ and working with other NEC assets such as ASTOR and AWACS. He also pointed out the continued requirement for the Recce assets which were seen to have been written off after the demise of TRACER/FSCS. “We realised in Kosovo that CVR(T) was the only vehicle capable of climbing the snow-clad mountains to maintain 24/7 recce operations. Thus, we would expect the TRACE/FSCS ‘lessons learnt’, to migrate into FRES. He also foresaw the creation of a new Light Brigade in the British Army which would consist of mechanized infantry supported by light armour and soft-skinned vehicles. Th

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