Aberporth ready for Watchkeeper
A milestone has been reached in the £899M MoD project to develop the Watchkeeper UAV, with the delivery of the necessary infrastructure to support the trials programme at Parc Aberporth, Ceredigion.
The MoD Defence Equipment & Support’s (DE&S) Unmanned Air Systems Project Team, the Welsh Assembly, West Wales Airport and contractors QinetiQ and Thales have co-operated to deliver the completed facilities on schedule, ready for the UAV’s prime contractor Thales to migrate Watchkeeper trials in the Autumn.
Staff from MoD, key contractors and the Welsh Assembly Government met on site to mark the completion of this important stage in the programme, which has involved the provision of enhanced accommodation and technical support at the existing UAV “Centre of Excellence” on a site originally created by the then Welsh Development Agency on the site of the former RAF Aberporth.
Defence contractor QinetiQ has delivered the facilities as part of a £5M contract to support the Watchkeeper programme from Parc Aberporth.
Project manager Robert Walter said: “This development is expected to bring unique trials, development and test flight and certification capabilities to West Wales, which can be used by the MoD and a range of unmanned air systems manufacturers, suppliers and customers. It should also lead to additional job opportunities and promote Parc Aberporth as a centre of excellence for all future unmanned air vehicles.”
Dennis Cox, the DE&S Programme manager stated: “The Watchkeeper project team have been working closely with the other stakeholders to put in place the infrastructure required to fly unmanned air systems.
"This co-operative effort has resulted in the delivery on schedule of a facility fully capable of meeting the demanding requirements of the Watchkeeper trials programme.
"Thales, the Watchkeeper prime contractor, is now clear to migrate the trials programme to UK by October 2009. Initial live flying elements of the operator training are expected to commence in March 2010 contributing to systems acceptance and deployment in October 2010.”
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