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07 Feb 19. Watchkeeper achieves full operational capability. The British Army has declared full operational capability (FOC) for the Watchkeeper tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAS), Jane’s has learned. The milestone, known as FOC 2, was “achieved on 30 November 2018”, said a senior military source, although the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) chose at the time not to announce it. A British Army spokesperson told Jane’s on 6 February, “Watchkeeper achieved full operational capability 2 at the end of last year. Since then, 47 Regiment Royal Artillery has had two batteries at readiness to deploy on operations anywhere in the world.”
The military source said the regiment has four equipment batteries that “will cycle through training and operational readiness”.
The British Army had hoped to achieve FOC 2 early in 2018 but a series of crashes by Watchkeeper air vehicles meant its release to service (RTS) certification to allow it to be safely used for routine training and operations could not be declared, so FOC 2 had to be delayed.
It now appears that the MoD has decided to proceed to FOC without formal RTS certification. “Release to service will be achieved shortly, which will relax the current restrictions placed on flying the Watchkeeper unmanned air system, allowing training to move from the trials facility at West Wales Airport to Boscombe Down Airfield,” said the military source. “Boscombe Down Airfield is better located for 47 Regiment, based at the home of the artillery, Larkhill, as well as improving its support to collective training on Salisbury Plain.”
On 9 December 2018, 47 Regiment posted photographs on its social media pages showing its personnel operating Watchkeepers on an unidentified military training area. The British Army still has some way to go before it is able to move 47 Regiment’s flying operations to Boscombe Down. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
30 Jan 19. China’s AT200 cargo UAV readies for operational evaluation by 2022. Star UAV System, a Chengdu-based developer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), has begun production and initial deliveries of its AT200 cargo UAV following a series of successful airworthiness trials in 2018, Jane’s has learnt. Under a contract awarded by launch customer SF Express in October 2017, Star UAV will supply three AT200 air vehicles for further evaluation and operational testing. The company will partner with SF Express – China’s second largest domestic and international courier based in the Guangdong province – to validate air traffic control, autonomous flight and navigation technologies, and safety procedures that are necessary to enable large-scale unmanned air logistics operations within the country.
The company has also signed a contract to deliver up to 50 air vehicles to an undisclosed customer by 2022.
A Star UAV spokesperson told Jane’s that a prototype AT200 successfully performed a pre-programmed flight between Pucheng Neifu Airport and Danfeng Airport in Shaanxi province on 26 October 2018, flying at altitudes of up to 16,732 ft (5,100 m) over the Qinling Mountains, with the air vehicle taxiing and taking off automatically during the launch process.
The air vehicle also performed an automatic landing and taxi to its allocated berth, before being inspected by engineers from Star UAV and the co-developer Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It returned to Pucheng Neifu Airport via an alternate route, again automatically performing launch and recovery manoeuvres. According to the spokesperson, the flight trial lasted for approximately 194 minutes.
“Flying under flight code U3267 along a route that was approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the prototype successfully completed an autonomous, end-to-end cargo transportation mission in the mountainous region for the first time,” the spokesperson said.
“Our UAV control and navigation system functioned as expected,” he noted. “During both phases of the flight, we [had] good communication with the tower and the air traffic control.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)
04 Feb 19. Qatari Bayraktar UAVs complete testing. The six Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have been ordered by Qatar have completed their factory acceptance tests, the manufacturer Baykar Makina announced on 1 February. The Turkish company also said 55 Qatari military personnel have competed their training on the system in Keşan in Erdirne province. Baykar Makina officials declined to tell Jane’s when the UAVs will be delivered to Qatar. Qatar’s order for six Bayraktar TB2 aircraft, three ground control stations, and a training simulator was announced during the 2018 DIMDEX show held in Doha in March. Baykar Makina will also establish a UAV operation centre and create a national geographic information system for the Qatari Armed Forces. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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