Israel's Elbit Systems will perform the first test flight of the UK Ministry of Defence's Watchkeeper tactical unmanned air vehicle on 14 April.

Taking off from Megido airfield in northern Israel and using a prototype UAV, the test will evaluate the effects of the Watchkeeper requirements on the WK450's flight characteristics the UAV is based on Elbit's 450kg (990lb) Hermes 450. Compared with the baseline design, the UK version has a retractable and strengthened nose wheel and improved fixed main undercarriage. Its wing has been blended with the aircraft's upper fuselage and will now carry de-icing equipment for all-weather operations.

 © Thales

The Megido test campaign will include an undisclosed number of take-offs and landings, plus operations at high altitudes. The prototypes to be used during the process were manufactured by Elbit's Cyclone division in Carmiel.

Watchkeeper prime contractor Thales UK earlier this year conducted multiple flights of the WK450's I-Master synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indication payload with a Cessna 406 light aircraft. The UK's air vehicle will operate with both I-Master and electro-optical/infrared sensors.