Thales UK says its Watchkeeper Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV), developed for the UK Ministry of Defence, has completed its first flight.

Watchkeeper will provide the UK armed forces with an essential intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability, and will be a key component of the UK’s network enabled capability.

Thales will deliver equipment, training and facilities, with the capability coming into service from 2010.

Managing Director of Thales UK’s aerospace business Richard Deakin says 2008 is an important year for the programme as it will also see the testing and integration of the automatic take-off and landing system, the I-Master radar and EO/IR/LTD payloads.

“The I-Master radar flight trials have been extremely encouraging,” he says.

“The SAR imagery seen in the initial trials is outstanding and testing the GMTI functionality has just commenced.

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“The combination of these sensors operating in a networked manner will certainly provide a transformational step in ISTAR capability for the UK armed forces.”

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh