The UK’s Watchkeeper ISTAR UAV
January 17/19: Exercise after defense cooperation The British Royal Air Force (RAF) holds its annual Cobra Warrior exercise in September at Coningsby Air Base in Lincolnshire and it features a premiere: Israeli Air Force aircrew and fighter jets are to take part in a joint exercise with the Royal Air Force in Britain for the first time. The exercise is the culmination of the advanced Qualified Weapons Instructor course, and usually also includes crew and aircraft from other allied air forces who fly together with the British teams in complex combat scenarios. Last year, German and Italian aircraft joined the RAF. Recent British-Israeli defense cooperation has included the training of British personnel on the use of Israeli weapons systems acquired by Britain: the Watchkeeper WK450 drone, the Exactor ground-based missile, and the Litening targeting pod carried by RAF Typhoon and Tornado aircraft.
Britain’s Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program aims to give the Royal Artillery an advanced mid-range UAV for surveillance – and possibly more. Watchkeeper will be an important system, working within a complementary suite of manned (vid. ASTOR Sentinel R1) and unmanned (Buster, Desert Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper) aerial Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition Reconnaissance (ISTAR) systems. This will make it a core element of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Network-Enabled Capability strategy.
The initial August 2005 contract award to Thales UK’s joint venture was worth around GBP 700 million, but that has risen, and the program expected to create or sustain up to 2,100 high-quality manufacturing jobs in the UK. The Watchkeeper platform is based on Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 UAV platform, which is serving as a contractor-operated interim solution on the front lines of battle.
Watchkeeper: Rationale & Concept
WK450: The Platform
Watchkeeper: Team and Program
Contracts & Key Events
2014 – 2019
2011 – 2013
2009 – 2010
2007 – 2008
2004 – 2006
Appendix A: Phoenix’s Ashes
Additional Readings and Sources
Background: Watchkeeper Program
Background: Watchkeeper UAV & Ancillaries
Background: Related UAVs
News & Views
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