The UK’s Watchkeeper ISTAR UAV
November 5/15: A British Army Watchkeeper UAV has crashed while coming in to land at a test and evaluation site in the south west of England. The GBP1.2 billion ($2.4 billion) program has come under fire for cost overruns, with the majority of the 33 Watchkeepers owned by the British currently in storage. An Initial Operating Capability timetabled for 2017 is unlikely to be achieved, with the Ministry of Defence ultimately planning to procure 54 of the 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 – 2015
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
Fill in the secure form below to activate your subscription right away (or pick another plan)