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12 Jun 07. Thales unveils production WATCHKEEPER air vehicle design. 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.”
Adam Baddeley will be writing a feature on Watchkeeper next week

14 Jun 07. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI), a leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and tactical reconnaissance radars, today announced that the first Sky WarriorTM aircraft flew successfully from the company’s El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, Calif., on June 6. The company-owned Block 0 aircraft completed all stated objectives for its maiden flight. The flight marked an important milestone in the successful execution of GA-ASI’s multi-year contract for the U.S. Army’s Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program. Built in essentially the same configuration as the Sky Warrior UAS being developed for the ER/MP Program, additional Sky Warrior Block 0 aircraft will be produced to demonstrate the maturity of the technology being incorporated into the program. These aircraft will deploy to Southwest Asia early next year to showcase the capability of the design to support the development phase of ER/MP. The deployment will also provide an accelerated capability of the program to support deployed Army combat troops. A derivative of the combat-proven Predator®, the innovative and technologically sophisticated Sky Warrior aircraft provides the U.S. Army with a reliable, affordable and compelling solution to meet challenging Army requirements for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and tactical strike operations. The aircraft will perform long-endurance, surveillance, communications relay, and weapons delivery missions with double the weapons capacity of Predator. Featuring a Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) for increased supportability in the field, Sky Warrior can fly above 29,000 feet on jet or diesel fuel with increased horsepower and significantly improved fuel efficiency. The HFE power plant also reduces maintenance costs, offers increased service life, and greatly simplifies logistics by ensuring a more readily available fuel source. The aircraft is also equipped with triple redund

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