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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Crash of Army Watchkeeper drone embarrasses UK MOD

Iran Press TV

Sun Aug 11, 2019 02:20PM

Reports that one of the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) flagship drones crashed after it "landed beyond its planned touchdown point" will do little to assuage concerns about British Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programmes.

The drone in question, a Watchkeeper WK050, reportedly crashed in June 2018, but details relating to the incident have only just been released.

Disclosure about the crash is set to intensify concerns about the UK's troubled drone programmes. The MOD boasts two flagship drone projects: the Royal Air Force's (RAF) 'Protector' programme and the army's 'Watchkeeper' surveillance drone.

The RAF's Protector programme is concerned with introducing the Certifiable Predator B drone into service.

In its latest annual report in July 2019, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), a body that oversees and enforces quality control in respect of major infrastructure projects, identified "continuing problems, delays and failures" with both drone programmes.

According to the IPA, the RAF's Protector programme "will deliver two years late and over original predicted cost".

The IPA's assessment of the army's Watchkeeper programme is even grimmer, as the project was originally intended to be "fully operational" by 2010, but in fact it will not reach "embodiment of final functionality" until 2020/21.

The UK's troubled military UAV sector is bound to heighten concerns about broader British military deficits. One reason as to why the UK has significantly invested in military drones is to overcome, or compensate, shortcomings and capability gaps in other areas.

After all, military UAVs are essentially designed to keep service personnel out of dangerous environments.

But the revelation about the crash of a Watchkeeper drone, coupled with broader concerns set out in the IPA report, indicates that Britain is failing to optimise its drone programmes to meet actual, or potential, military needs.

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