The MoD has awarded Thales UK the initial three-year support contract for the Watchkeeper Unmanned Air System programme, for which Thales UK is also prime systems integrator.
The Watchkeeper support solution will be a performance-based Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) service, providing spares and repairs, technical support and the availability of the Watchkeeper training facility. Thales will deliver this service with the support of its key partners and supply chain, established during the Watchkeeper development and production programme.
The contract covers the whole Watchkeeper system, comprised of over 160 entities (such as unmanned air vehicles, ground control stations and support vehicles), and includes operator / user training. It is the first step in Thales UK’s provision of through-life support to Watchkeeper.
The Watchkeeper system is Europe’s largest UAS programme, and will provide enhanced all-weather, dual-sensor multi-mission and image-exploitation, and dissemination capability for the UK armed forces. The programme will contribute to information gathering and force protection by providing the MoD with remote, unmanned intelligence and surveillance monitoring during deployed operations.
Defence Equipment & Support UAS programme manager, Steve Waller, said: “This is a significant milestone, keeping the programme on track to achieve the inservice date and deliver the capability into theatre as soon as is practical.”
Watchkeeper will initially operate in parallel with the Thales-led H-450 UAS programme, a service-provision programme that since June 2007 has provided battlewinning ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) capability for the UK Armed Forces. H-450 has now flown more than 30,000 operational hours in support of current operations.
The Watchkeeper Service Management Team will be based in the UK, with Joint MoD / Thales Service Delivery and Training teams based in Abbey Wood, Bristol and Larkhill, Salisbury, assisted by service support organisations at Thales’s facilities in both Leicester and Crawley.