Watchkeeper drone still on list of overdue defence projects

The Guardian reports that Watchkeeper drone programme delays now total 12 months. This is presumably despite contract relaxations designed to let the contractor ‘catch up’.

The drones, built by U-TacS, a consortium of Elbit Systems of Israel and Thales of France were intended to be supplied to UK forces in Afghanistan months ago, but there hasn’t been any public evidence that they have been introduced. Watchkeeper is based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone.

There was considerable criticism of the decision to build Watchkeeper, when other drones were available ‘off the shelf’. But proponents claimed that the Watchkeeper programme would help spark a domestic drone industry.

There is little evidence of this happening, and competing drone factories are popping up around the world.

I don’t believe that the Ministry of Defence has provided an indication where the 54 drones will be deployed, aside from the few needed for Afghanistan. But given the propensity of drones to crash, perhaps many will just be kept in reserve.

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