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France to Evaluate Watchkeeper UAV

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Watchkeeper to Be Key Pillar of Anglo-French Defence Cooperation

(Source: Thales; issued February 17, 2012)

The largest tactical unmanned air system (UAS) in Europe was today announced as a key pillar of a broad Anglo-French defence cooperation in the field of UAS as the French Government confirmed its interest in working with the UK to develop Thales UK’s Watchkeeper.

Cooperation will unlock huge potential benefits

Victor Chavez, Chief Executive of Thales UK, says:

“Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) have played a fundamental role in military operations in recent years, and it is only natural that they now also take centre stage in international defence agreements. The UK and France want to remain leaders in the use of UAVs, and working together on Watchkeeper would ensure both have the best intelligence capabilities without duplicating the costs.”

“Cooperation will unlock huge potential benefits in terms of interoperability, joint technology development and industrial collaboration, and the twinning of the British Royal Artillery 32nd Regiment and the French Artillery’s 61st Regiment underlines how closely the two nations intend to work in this area.”

“Industrially, UAVs are central to the defence sector’s renewal over the next period, and today’s agreement gives the market confidence that British and French industry will play a central role. Collaboration also creates the chance to work with the best small and medium-sized enterprises on both sides of the channel, as part of ensuring this dynamic capability continues to evolve.”

Thales is at the forefront of the UK’s growing adoption of UASs, with unparalleled experience from 60,000 hours of operating Hermes 450 UAS in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The company’s next-generation Watchkeeper system, to be built entirely in Europe, will deliver life-saving surveillance and operational capabilities to the UK’s armed forces, and is also the only tactical UAV to meet European airworthiness criteria – completing over 100 flights in the UK as part of its trials programme.

Thales is a global technology leader for the defence & security and the aerospace & transport markets. In 2010 the company generated revenues of £11.2 billion (EUR 13.1 billion), with 68,000 employees in 50 countries. Thales UK employs 8,000 staff based at 35 locations. In 2010 Thales UK’s revenues were around £1.5 billion.