Where are all the Watchkeepers?

The new issue of Flight International includes a two-page feature on the UK’s glacial-paced Watchkeeper unmanned air system programme, which harks back to the legacy of the British Army’s earlier Phoenix: a UAV so unreliable that it was nicknamed the “Bugger off”, due to the at-times slim chance of it actually returning from a mission.

These are worrying times for the UK military’s UAS community. Despite having been first flown in Israel five years ago, Watchkeeper is still without a publicised entry into service schedule, although it is now roughly three years late. An announcement on that is expected later this year, but with the drawdown in Afghanistan only to gather pace, it’s possible that the army’s new tactical UAV capability (Crown Copyright image below) might never serve there.

WK 560.jpg
We have to guess a bit about the main factors behind the major delay in getting this enhanced system into the air in Afghanistan, but it’s likely to be a combination of the high accident rate involving the army’s interim use of Hermes 450s (eight crashes), French interest in the system (why make it harder to incorporate changes for Paris if it could yet decide to get onboard?) and the dreaded certification process.

In February, the Ministry of Defence told me that it had taken delivery of exactly one-third of the army’s eventual 54 Watchkeeper UAVs, plus nine of the programme’s contracted 15 ground control stations. It didn’t tell me where this mass of kit is currently gathering dust, though. For its part, prime contractor Thales UK didn’t respond to requests to comment. Pity.


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

, , ,

3 Responses to Where are all the Watchkeepers?

  1. Christian Louboutin Sale 4 September, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Day 4 (Mon).

  2. http://armorgames.com/user/bagel37pruner 1 October, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone
    4! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the fantastic work!

  3. miniclip games 19 October, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    Hey there, Cool publish. Likely to difficulty with all your web page inside world wide web traveler, could take a look at? For instance is still the industry fundamental and also a significant amount of other individuals can omit your current spectacular writing due to this dilemma.

Leave a Reply