France and UK en­hance Watch­keeper co­op­er­a­tion


The UK and France have moved a step for­ward in demon­strat­ing their com­mit­ment to de­fence co­op­er­a­tion un­der the 2010 Lan­caster House Treaty with the an­nounce­ment that France will un­der­take op­er­a­tional as­sess­ments and tri­als of the Thales Watch­keeper un­manned air sys­tem (UAS) in 2012 and 2013, with a view to co­op­er­at­ing with the UK on Europe’s most ad­vanced tac­ti­cal UAS sys­tem.

The an­nounce­ment was made af­ter a bi­lat­eral meet­ing in Lon­don be­tween UK Sec­re­tary of State for De­fence Philip Ham­mond and French De­fence Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Vic­tor Chavez, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Thales UK, said “The bat­tlewin­ning op­er­a­tional edge that UAVs bring to op­er­a­tions is well un­der­stood and these sys­tems are rightly a cen­tral pil­lar of UKFrench de­fence col­lab­o­ra­tion. The an­nounce­ment to­day that France will un­der­take tri­als of Watch­keeper demon­strates both nations com­mit­ment to co­op­er­a­tion on the bat­tle­field and in the de­vel­op­ment of this strate­gi­cally im­por­tant sec­tor.”

Pierre Eric Pom­mel­let, SVP of Thales De­fence Mis­sion Sys­tems added “Col­lab­o­ra­tion of­fers per­spec­tives for wide­spread ben­e­fit for both nations—shared sup­port costs, joint de­vel­op­ment of en­hance­ments to what is al­ready one of the world’s most ad­vanced tac­ti­cal UAV sys­tems, the abil­ity to har­ness the ca­pa­bil­i­ties and in­no­va­tion of both British and French in­dus­try, and most im­por­tantly the pro­vi­sion of world lead­ing in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­i­ties for British and French Armed Forces. Joint tech­no­log­i­cal, in­dus­trial and in­ter­op­er­abil­ity ad­vances were at the heart of the An­gloFrench Treaty, and to­day’s an­nounce­ment demon­strates con­crete progress to­wards those aims.”

“The treaty has also al­ready de­liv­ered much more than co­op­er­a­tion on sys­tems—the twin­ning of the British Royal Ar­tillery 32nd Reg­i­ment and the French Ar­tillery’s 61st Reg­i­ment, whose re­la­tion­ship will only be deep­ened by joint op­er­a­tion of Watch­keeper, are the em­bod­i­ment of the hu­man links which are be­ing formed across the Chan­nel.”

Watch­keeper is Europe’s largest tac­ti­cal un­manned air sys­tem (UAS) pro­cure­ment pro­gramme. The de­liv­ery of Watch­keeper equip­ment to the British Army is on track and over 200 hours of fly­ing tri­als have taken place.

Watch­keeper will re­place the Her­mes 450 UAS, a Thales tac­ti­cal UAV ser­vice pro­vided as an ur­gent op­er­a­tional re­quire­ment, which has al­ready flown more than 65,000 hours in Afghanistan and Iraq, pro­vid­ing life-sav­ing in­tel­li­gence and re­con­nais­sance.

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