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WATCHKEEPER STILL ON THE RUNWAY?

04 Nov 04. As the thales-Boeing team announces the JUEP selection (See:BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 37, 30 September 2004, WATCHKEEPER THIS SPACE?), BATTLESPACE understands that since our last update on the contract that the situation has actually worsened with contract signature not expected before mid-06 at the earliest, we have asked the MoD for clarification as to the current status.

In addition we understand that the contract amount has risen by 20% to a figure suggested to be £840m with £100m already spent. The number of Ground Stations is belived to have been reduced from 16 to 12 with only 3 Brigades receiving the system. Whilst exact nu,mbers have not been mentioned , if one Brigade has four ground stations controlling a flight of UAVs each, that suggests that each Groud Station, the UAVs and sensors are costing a staggering £70m each. This is an incredible figure given that earlier suggestions indicate that a US manufacturer had offered a system with five times time over station for $5m per UAV!

In addition with the loss of the Elbit 180, the 450 is believed to be more vulnerable to ground fire and now has to be launched from an airfield.

We will be keeping a watch on this programme but early indications suggest that the Mod is watching the sitauioon closely and may go back to the companies who lost out in the first round to fill a yawning gap in UK ISTAR capability which will soon only have the venerable Phoenix as its eyes and ears! (See BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 38, 07 October 2004, IS THE UK HEADING FOR AN ISTAR GAP?)

Meanwhile for JUEP, Thales UK, Boeing and QinetiQ have signed a contract with the MoD for the Maritime UAV strand of the Joint UAV Experimentation Programme (JUEP). The team, led by Thales UK and to be known as Team JUEP, will fly the ScanEagle UAV in a maritime role to identify the joint service operational requirements for future maritime UAVs.

Team JUEP bid includes the ScanEagle, a commercially proven UAV modified to comply with UK safety and airworthiness regulations. ScanEagle recently completed a 16+ hour flight, believed to be the longest flight ever by a UAV launched and retrieved at sea. The small fixed wing ScanEagle includes a unique approach for launch and recovery to a ship at sea. Using its extended endurance it will conduct a wide range of operationally focussed maritime trials, with imagery delivered to the shipboard commanders and other networked maritime and airborne assets.

Steve Krause, Boeing’s director for international unmanned systems programs, said, “The award of this contract will enable maritime ISTAR concepts to be demonstrated to the Ministry of Defence as efficiently as possible. Boeing has teamed with the best in the industry, Thales UK and QinetiQ, to offer the JUEP an innovative and highly persistent UAV platform, the ScanEagle, and a demonstration approach that promises to deliver meaningful military capability in a matter of months.”

Peter Jenkins, Director of Aerospace at QinetiQ added: “QinetiQ is committed to supporting UK UAV systems. As a primary research and technology provider for ISTAR and UAVs to the MOD, QinetiQ is delighted to be working with Thales UK and Boeing on the JUEP Programme. JUEP will be a significant step towards realising UK UAV capability.”

Boeing will provide the modified ScanEagle air vehicle and UAV expertise from US operations. QinetiQ brings its expertise in UK UAV trials execution, safety and airworthiness accreditation. Thales UK will lead the team and also undertake shipboard integration, operational analysis (OA) and synthetic environments for pre-trials testing and confidence building, planning and post trials analysis.
different situations and environments.

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