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19 Jul 04. A new round of defence spending cuts, manpower cuts to all forces and contract delays are expected to be announced on Wednesday by UK Chancellor Gordon Brown. Contract requirements expected to be targeted are Nimrod, Support Vehicles and GBAD.

Sources suggest that Geoff Hoon, UK Defence Minister will announce tomorrow at Farnborough the down-select of Thales for the Watchkeeper project to secure the existing budget and to keep the ISD of 2006 against a rival bid from Northrop Grumman. This would be a sop to the expected downsizing of the Nimrod fleet to 12 aircraft. In addition the RAF is expected to suffer the most in manpower cuts with 7000 job losses expected and the scrapping of the Jaguar force, just when the government has spent £70m in upgrading the aircraft, this may explain Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt’s reluctance to open the event! The Support Vehicle requirement is expected to be cut in numbers and GBAD halved from £1.5bn to £750m. These savage cuts would make the Royal Air Force vulnerable in the event of another major conflict and any delay, expected, of the JSF project.

Alex Cresswell gave BATTLESPACE details of the Thales offering and its partners involvement. (See: THALES SETS OUT ITS WATCHKEEPER STALL BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 9, March 8th 2004, NORTHROP GRUMMAN SUBMITS WATCHKEEPER BID BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 11, March 19th 2004)

“Thales would base its UAV business in Britain if it wins the £800m Watchkeeper programme, the biggest in Europe. We have had talks with Elbit with regard to the division of the world markets. The first UAVs would be delivered direct from Elbit to ensure the ISD of 2006 whilst subsequent systems would be built and supported in the UK. Full details of its plans after the bidding date, including where in Britain components such as airframes, engines, sensors and ground stations will be manufactured, the spokesman said. Thales plans to help the UK create a UAV business to support Watchkeeper and beyond for the UK and the export market worth an estimated £1.5bn over the next 10 years.” he said.

Boeing joined the Thales consortium before both groups presented final bids to the MoD on March 18. Boeing will support future U.S.-UK interoperability and do work on scheduled upgrades through the life of the programme. Thales UK and Boeing will work together on the WATCHKEEPER programme. This future work with Boeing will add to the strong interoperability already built into the Thales WATCHKEEPER solution with the assistance of Cubic Corporation; a team member. Interoperability already includes adoption of relevant international standards for imagery transfer and the use of NATO standard datalinks, as used by US forces. Thales, with ISTAR programmes throughout Europe, is ideally placed to ensure that WATCHKEEPER is capable of deployment with all coalition partners from within NATO, Europe and the US.

Thales UK and Boeing will undertake joint activities to ensure future
interoperability of WATCHKEEPER with US forces at all levels. The
WATCHKEEPER system will operate in and fully integrate with the network enabled environments that both the US (Network Centric Warfare – NCW) and UK (Network Enabled Capability – NEC) armed forces are creating.

In addition to being a leading developer of unmanned systems for combat and reconnaissance, Boeing is playing a leading role in the development of network-centric warfare capabilities. This includes having lead development roles in the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System program for the U.S. Air Force and Navy and the network-centric Future Combat Systems program for the U.S. Army. FCS will use advanced networked communications and technologies to link soldiers with both manned and unmanned ground and air platforms and sensors, fielding a comprehensive solution for the U.S. Army beginning in 2010. In addition, through its Phantom Works advanc

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