The UK’s Watchkeeper ISTAR UAV
June 20/18: Jane’s reports that the UK military has lost another Thales WK 450 Watchkeeper to an accident. Britain’s Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program was devised to give the Royal Artillery an advanced mid-range UAV for surveillance and is complementary to other ISTAR systems in the Royal inventory. The Watchkeeper platform is based on Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 UAV platform. The UAV is designed to provide continuous 24/7 surveillance when needed, using unmanned air vehicles able to stay airborne for more than 16 hours each through night and poor weather. So far, the UK military has lost five Watchkeepers, three of which crashed in the last 12 months. The Watchkeeper UAV and 47 Regiment Royal Artillery that operates it were due to achieve full operating capability (FOC) earlier in 2018, but this milestone was postponed after the platform failed to obtain a key flight safety certificate in November 2017.
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 – 2018
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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