Thales has proposed teaming with Polish industry to offer a weaponised version of the WK450 Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicle for Warsaw’s tactical UAV requirement.

Under the proposal, the British Army’s surveillance UAV would be adapted by Polish partners – potentially Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, the Institute of Aviation, WB Group, WZL-2 and Mesko – to integrate Thales’ free-fall lightweight multirole missile (LMM).

Matt Moore, head of Thales UK's UAS business, says that Watchkeeper would be able to carry four free-fall LMMs on two underwing hardpoints.

Poland wants to acquire 12 tactical UAVs through the “Orlik” (Eaglet) programme acquisition, with aircraft to be delivered by 2022.

Purchase of an additional batch of the selected type is planned between 2022 and 2026, while a selection decision and contract signature is expected during 2016, according to a defence ministry notice for the programme issued in January.

Watchkeeper Afghan - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

Freefall LMM Thales - full size


Polish Watchkeeper industrial activity for Thales’ proposal would include flight management; system integration; manufacture of aircraft, including composite fuselage, wings, tails and landing gear; airfield shakedown flights; and handover to customer; as well as engineering development and supply chain management.

Thales representatives say that throughout manufacture a “restricted zone” would be established so that Poland can integrate its encryption hardware and software. Poland will own the rights for all encryption modifications and modernisations developed and implemented under the development, the company notes.

Warsaw University of Technology has also been contracted to co-operate with Thales on UAV radar technologies, flight simulations, drive technologies, applications in civil services and man-machine interface.

It is understood that the integration and Polish military authority certification of LMM on Watchkeeper could be completed within 18 months once an agreement is signed. Financing will be by means of a loan guaranteed by the British government, Thales says.

The company has also proposed establishing a Watchkeeper/UAV training centre at the Polish air force academy in Deblin, Moore adds, which would offer simulated and live training.