If the claims at the recent Paris air show were to be believed, the first unit of Watchkeeper drones would have been deployed in Afghanistan in December, 2011. A recent answer by the undersecretary of state suggests that the first operational use of Watchkeeper will be in early 2012. There has been little public information about Watchkeeper released recently. If Watchkeeper is deployed successfully, watch for a series of embedded journalism stories to hype the success of the project. If the project continues to falter, expect the project to be under reported, as it has been from the beginning.
Over priced, delayed, and built from an Israeli prototype, Watchkeeper has been an embarrassment to both the Labour and Conservative governments. Now that the most recent atrocities in Gaza have faded in the public mind, the government may wish to trumpet Watchkeeper as a success story, despite its dependence on collaboration with an Israeli arms maker who provides weapons for the ongoing occupation of Palestine.
But the government will have to explain why it has paid a billion pounds for drone technology which could have been purchased elsewhere at much less.
And it will have to explain what Watchkeeper contributes to the UK effort in Afghanistan which is failing not because the UK and its allies lack technology but because they lack moral legitimacy and the ability to make any positive contribution to Afghanistan through military force.