During the London DSEI 2015 event, Thales UK company announced, in cooperation with the Polish WB Electronics and the French Vitec companies, that the “Watchkeeper X” programme has begun. The aim of the initiative is to create – in order to meet the requirements pursued by the foreign buyers – solutions that would be tailored to the local needs, within the scope of the technological solutions, as well as within the scope of the technology transfer and access to the source codes.
Watchkeeper X is a programme which is going to be developed independently from the British WH450 Watchkeeper system, and – thanks to its modular structure – it is going to be possible to tailor the newly created platform to the needs of the prospective buyers. France and Poland are going to become the initial two states that are going to benefit from the above solution. In both cases, the armed forces are interested in acquisition of the Watchkeeper UAV system coming in configurations that would be customized in line with precise requirements which – within many areas – are very different from the needs of the British Army. For example, Poland is seeking to acquire a tactical UCAV system, thus the UAV offered for Poland is the only variant of the Watchkeeper system which is armed with the FLMM ordnance.
Thales UK decided to cooperate with the selected local companies, in case of which scope of qualifications is compliant with the local needs. In case of Poland it was decided that cooperation should involve the WB Electronics company which is striving to implement the Polish communication and control system and cooperate, within the scope of other unmanned platforms. Thanks to the memorandum signed in August this year, between Thales UK and WB Electronics, it is going to be possible to integrate the defence, guidance and observation systems of the Polish FlyEye and Manta systems, together with the infrastructure used to control the British-made Watchkeeper UAV. This means that there is a possibility of controlling all of the above UAV’s with the use of a single control station, developed for the Watchkeeper. In France, Thales UK cooperates with the Vitec company, specialized in visual and communications systems.
Thales UK is planning to open a “Watchkeeper X Club”, an organized user network that could make use of the solutions developed for the said UAV platform, in order to fulfil the needs of the other “club” members. It would also be possible to modify the British UAV systems, similarly as in case of the British Army Watchkeeper UAV which – at the moment – constitutes the base for further development of the platform.
At the moment, Thales UK effort related to the Watchkeeper X programme is focused on Poland and France, however negotiations with other potential buyers are also being carried out. This type of unmanned vehicles is an object of interest for the South-East Asia or Middle East states, as well as numerous European states, all of which are seeking to acquire UAV systems that are more cost-effective and induce less strain on ATC airspace management, in comparison with the MALE class systems.