12 Jun 07. Thales UK has unveiled the final configuration of the WATCHKEEPER unmanned air vehicle (UAV) following a Critical Design Review by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The air vehicle has been developed with Elbit Systems and will be manufactured at the UAV Tactical Systems Ltd (U-TacS – the Thales UK/Elbit Systems joint company) site in Leicester.
The production WATCHKEEPER air vehicle design includes the following features:
* Dual-payload configuration
* Flexible, all-weather operation with de-icing capability
* Improved access to sub-systems for easier maintenance
* Automatic takeoff and landing
The design represents key UK-specific enhancements for expeditionary use around the world and an improved ability to provide an essential, cost-effective intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability for the MoD.
“WATCHKEEPER is an ISTAR system with several important sub-systems. The air vehicle however is not only an iconic representation of the system but a major factor in persistence, tactical deployment and low support and operating costs. The evolution of the design, from the initial baseline Hermes 450 air vehicle to the final configuration, reflects a dedication to providing the best possible solution for the UK,” says Richard Deakin, Managing Director of Thales’ aerospace business in the UK.
“The finalisation of the design of the air vehicle is a major milestone in the WATCHKEEPER programme and marks a significant step on the journey to create the most capable vehicle and system for use in the UK,” says Deakin. “WATCHKEEPER is a unique system that will form a key part of the UK’s network enabled capability – a capable and reliable UAV carrying highly advanced sensors, linked to a comprehensive network of command, control, exploitation and dissemination elements.”
Alex Dorrian, Thales UK Chief Executive Officer, says: “The WATCHKEEPER system will provide the UK with a powerful asset capable of operating in theatres around the world and in all weather conditions. This is an exciting glimpse into the future of aerospace technology and we are proud to be leading such a cutting-edge programme.”
Thales will offer a variant of the new air vehicle to customers outside of the UK WATCHKEEPER programme.