The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that it is to proceed with a purchase of Elbit Systems' Hermes 450 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicles from Thales UK to meet its Watchkeeper requirement, having eliminated the smaller Hermes 180 design.

Cdr Neil Hunter, requirements manager for the UK Defence Procurement Agency's tactical UAV integrated project team, says a tender analysis concluded that a single MALE-type with dual sensor payloads could better meet operational requirements than a mixed fleet of Hermes 180/450s. First indications of the single type preference emerged during last month's Flight International/Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems Asia Pacific conference in Melbourne (Flight International, 15-21 March). A contract signature for Watchkeeper is expected "over the next few months", says Hunter. It is unclear whether the retirement of the British Army's BAE Systems Phoenix tactical UAVs will create a capability gap before the availability of the replacement system, but he adds that the MoD is working to minimise or avoid this.

Source: Flight International