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Thales (UK) & Northrop Grumman compete for Multi-Million Watchkeeper (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Programme

07 February 2003

Two industrial consortia have been selected for the next stage of the multi-million pound Watchkeeper  (UAV) programme, which will provide surveillance and reconnaissance on the future battlefield.

The New Chapter of the Strategic Defence Review, published last year highlighted the key part that UAVs will play in contributing to network enabled capability, in order to improve our ability to find, identify and act decisively against the enemy. UAVs will be linked with 'strike' systems, including artillery, army attack helicopters or ground attack aircraft.

Teams led by Thales UK and Northrop Grumman ISS International have been selected to carry forward parallel assessment phase work before the selection next year of the preferred bidder for the 800m Watchkeeper programme.

Lord Bach, Minister for Defence Procurement, said:

"Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicle systems will be an invaluable addition to out military capability. They will play a vital role in providing our armed forces with timely intelligence to identify the threat, enabling us to strike faster and more decisively. Military commanders will be able to get high quality images as Watchkeeper tracks targets right up until the moment they are destroyed.

"Watchkeeper will have a huge impact in providing our forces with the best capability, as cost effectively as possible."

Watchkeeper is planned to be in service for 30 years, with an initial operating capability in early 2006. The Watchkeeper programme will be complemented by the Joint Service UAV Experimentation Programme (JUEP), which will assess the wider operational use of UAVs in the tri-service battle environment.

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Last Updated: 1 Apr 03