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Thales Watchkeeper WK450

The Thales Watchkeeper is the first operationally proven Unmanned Aircraft System developed and built in the UK, based on the Israeli Hermes UAV. Watchkeeper provides real-time, enhanced situational awareness for troops on the ground while helping to reduce risk and loss of life. Thales in the UK’s Watchkeeper is at the forefront of Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) air systems. Watchkeeper has been awarded a Release To Service (RTS), following rigorous safety and airworthiness reviews to ensure the system can be operated safely by the British Army. The Watchkeeper air vehicle is manufactured by UAV Tactical Systems Ltd, a joint venture between Elbit Systems UK and Thales UK, under a sub-contract from Thales UK, the Watchkeeper prime contractor.

The Watchkeeper’s Ground Control Station is its primary mission-planning, command and control interface, and can operate independently or as part of a C4I network. Missions are not mutually exclusive, and Watchkeeper can be dynamically re-tasked while airborne. Watchkeeper carries the very latest optical and radar systems. Payload configurations include HD electro/optical, infrared and laser capabilities, to allow observation, recognition and transmission – and precision location accuracy – at any time of day or night, and in extreme weather conditions. The Thales I-Master Radar performs both Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) in strip-map and spotlight modes and supports high-quality ground mapping. The Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) can detect and track moving targets.

Thales in the UK is the Prime Contractor and Design Authority for the UK Watchkeeper UAS, which is the largest UAS contract in Europe. The Watchkeeper UAS provides persistent, timely and accurate ISTAR to commanders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fully network-enabled system will serve the UK Armed Forces for the next 30 years. Watchkeeper is the first UAS to be awarded a full Release To Service (RTS) and is the only UAS of its type allowed to fly in UK airspace. The RTS follows rigorous safety and airworthiness reviews to ensure the system can be operated safely by the British Army.

Thales is the prime contractor for Watchkeeper. The programme has established the company as a leader in unmanned air systems, setting new benchmarks in safety. Watchkeeper secured the first Statement of Type Design Assurance from the Military Aviation Authority for an unmanned air system, a critical step to ensure the best in class system. Watchkeeper was given a Release To Service (RTS) in March 2014. Thales has also delivered a new comprehensive training capability based at MOD Larkhill and Boscombe Down, and has helped to establish Aberporth, West Wales as a leading UAV Testing Centre in Europe. Watchkeeper is a dual sensor, all-weather system that can provide round-the-clock intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, anywhere in the world.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced 29 September 2014 the first operational flights in Afghanistan of Thales’s unmanned air system, Watchkeeper. Commenting on the announcement, Victor Chavez, CEO of Thales UK, said: "It is a proud moment for everyone at Thales to receive the great news that Watchkeeper is operational in Afghanistan, supporting and protecting British forces on the ground. It is an important milestone for the MOD, Thales and the wider European aerospace industry, made possible by its ground-breaking safety certification. The system embodies a number of major technological innovations including ultra-high resolution, multi-modal radar and automatic take-off and landing to deliver an outstandingly effective military capability for the British Army.” The news came as other countries assess Watchkeeper for their tactical unmanned requirements."

The versatile Watchkeeper system is highly transportable and has fl exible deployment options. It is built to the same exacting standards as manned aircraft, and is modular in design, so it can be adapted and upgraded for specific operational requirements. Fully network-enabled, the system will serve the UK Armed Forces for the next 30 years.

Transportable by air, land and sea in a protective, international standard container, Watchkeeper assembles and disassembles fast, and can take off and land from prepared or semi-prepared airstrips. Watchkeeper is built to CS23/STANAG 4671 airworthiness certification standards. It is operable in zero visibility, harsh weather conditions and extreme temperatures. It has a unique de-icing system that detects and eradicates any build-up of ice, keeping it fully operational.

The Watchkeeper system has fully autonomous mission control and Autonomous Take off and Landing System (ATOLS), which minimises operator burden, and reduces manning and training costs. Its on-board autonomous emergency logic includes lost-link and glide to pre-programmed emergency landing sites. Watchkeeper’s modular design enables future growth potential to maintain pace with changing technology and threat changes. A number of packages are available that can be tailored to user requirements.

Watchkeeper carries the very latest optical and radar systems. Payload confi gurations include HD electro/optical, infrared and laser capabilities, to allow observation, recognition and transmission – and precision location accuracy – at any time of day or night, and in extreme weather conditions. The Thales I-Master Radar performs both Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) in strip-map and spotlight modes, and supports high quality ground mapping. The Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) can detect and track moving targets.

Optical Sensor includes High definition Electro/Optical Camera for daylight observation, detection, and recognition, and directing and tracking targets both day and night. Transmits high definition still images and real time video infra-red Camera, ideal for night observation, detection, recognition, and tracking targets. Laser Sub System (LSS) comprises a Laser Target Designator and a Laser Target Marker for marking targets by laser, and providing precision location.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) modes: Strip-map SAR, illuminating terrain parallel to the UAV’s path and Spotlight SAR, illuminating a fi xed area for a defined period. The radar’s aim alters progressively and precisely as the UAV follows its fl ight path, to keep the specifi ed area illuminated. When processed at the GCS, radar data can help produce high quality ground mapping images that, when used with digital map data and management software, provide optimum surveillance capabilities. Ground moving Target indicator (GmTi) detects and tracks moving targets such as very low speed, low radar cross section foot patrols through to fast moving targets such as speeding vehicles and under-flying aircraft. The Watchkeeper Unmanned Aircraft System is built to the same exacting standards as manned aircraft, and is modular in design, so it can be adapted and upgraded for specific operational requirements.




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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:06 ZULU