French army to trial Watchkeeper drone system in France

A French government official, Laurent Collet-Billon, chief executive of France’s DGA defence procurement agency, has claimed that the French army is interested in buying the British Watchkeeper drone system.

He has told Flight Global that the French army will trial a ground control system and one or two Watchkeeper drones in France in 2013, after army personnel get training in Britain.

The trials will determine if the Watchkeeper system is compatible with French information systems.

Thales, the giant French arms company which is the joint producer of the Watchkeeper drone, has been anxious to promote Watchkeeper to France and has tried to position Watchkeeper as a ‘key pillar’ of Anglo French defense cooperation.

The Watchkeeper programme has been plagued by delays. The Watchkeeper drone is an expensive updated version of Elbit System’s Hermes 450 drone.

It isn’t clear whether France will be paying for the trials, or whether the trials are being paid for by the vendors.

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