In July 2005 a £800
million contract was awarded to Thales to provide the Royal
Artillery with a Tactical Unmanned Air System (TUAS) named
Watchkeeper designed for all weather, Intelligence, Surveillance,
Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) use.
The Watchkeeper TUAS
capability is part of the UK’s plans for a Network Enabled
Capability that will provide UK commanders with accurate, timely and
high quality information, including imagery.
Watchkeeper will be
fully integrated into the wider command and control digitised
network, passing data quickly to those who need it via a satellite
datalink to a network of ground control stations, where the imagery
will be analysed and disseminated.
Watchkeeper will be operated and deployed by 32 and 47 Regiments
Royal Artillery to meet the information requirements of HQ Land
Manoeuvre Commanders with first aircraft in service during 2011.
Watchkeeper is based
on the Elbit Hermes 450 UAV design and each aircraft is believed to
cost about £15 million. Watchkeeper replaced the older Phoenix UAV
system in UK Army service.