News that France’s Dessault and Britain’s BAE are cooperating to build a new drone to compete with the American Predator drone is another indication of what a colossal waste of money the UK Watchkeeper programme has been.
One of the original justifications for the programme was the possibility of building a domestic drones programme. (Why the government didn’t think that the existing BAE drones programme wasn’t a domestic drones programme isn’t clear. Perhaps they wanted to have an alternative to the scandal plagued BAE).
But in the many years that the Watchkeeper programme has dragged along, the nature of drones and drone warfare has moved on, and the market for drones has changed. Israeli drones manufacturers have been building turnkey drone manufacturing plants around the world, rather than focussing on exports. Any country with a developed or nascent manufacturing sector can have its own national drone, using Israeli technology.
Rather than involving a technology transfer to the UK from the leading edge Israel, Watchkeeper has helped Israel to make inroads into the NATO infrastructure, and permitted the rogue state to integrate itself further into western military structures.
Watchkeeper has provided the UK with 54 extremely expensive drones, little more. There appears to be little potential for exports. The British taxpayer is the loser.