Watchkeeper takes a step forward
Thales has announced on 25 July 2012 that the UK and France have moved a step forward today in demonstrating their commitment to defence cooperation under the 2010 Lancaster House Treaty. France will undertake operational assessments and trials of the Thales Watchkeeper system in 2012 and 2013 with a view to cooperating with the UK on Europe’s most advanced tactical UAS system.
The announcement was made after a bilateral meeting in London between UK Secretary of State for Defence Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP and French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Thales, prime contractor for the Watchkeeper programme, is delivering Watchkeeper equipment to the British Army, with over 200 hours of flying trials already having taken place. The UAV will replace the Hermes 450 UAS, a Thales tactical UAV service provided as an
Urgent Operational Requirement, which has provided more than 65,000 hours of intelligence and reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Following the announcement, Victor Chavez, Chief Executive of Thales UK, said: ‘The battle-winning operational edge that UAVs bring to operations is well understood and these systems are rightly a central pillar of UK-French defence collaboration. The announcement today that France will undertake trials of Watchkeeper demonstrates both nations commitment to cooperation on the battlefield and in the development of this strategically important sector’.
Pierre Eric Pommellet , SVP of Thales Defence Mission Systems added: ‘Collaboration offers perspectives for widespread benefit for both nations – shared support costs, joint development of enhancements to what is already one of the world’s most advanced tactical UAV systems, the ability to harness the capabilities and innovation of both British and French industry, and most importantly the provision of world leading intelligence capabilities for British and French Armed Forces. Joint technological, industrial and interoperability advances were at the heart of the Anglo-French Treaty, and today’s announcement demonstrates concrete progress towards those aims.
‘The Treaty has also already delivered much more than cooperation on systems - the twinning of the British Royal Artillery 32nd Regiment and the French Artillery’s 61st Regiment, whose relationship will only be deepened by joint operation of Watchkeeper, are the embodiment of the human links which are being formed across the Channel.’
Watchkeeper is a high-performance multi-sensor, all-weather UAS that can remain airborne for over 16 hours in a single mission. It includes a high degree of automation, with automatic take-off and landing (ATOL), and has a de-icing capability to expand its ability to operate in all weather / operational environment. Delivered in a dual-payload configuration, the system includes enhanced electro-optic / infrared sensors, with laser target designator, as well as an advanced synthetic aperture radar / ground moving target indicator radar.
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