The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded Thales a £80 million contract to deliver Support to the British Army’s combat proven Watchkeeper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
The Support Contract will provide technical support over the coming years and provide important additional capacity for training in order to generate operational capability.
Training support will see the continuation of the Watchkeeper Training Facility, training solutions design, updates to training courseware, and additional instructional capacity for pilot and mission system operators, maintainers and support crew.
In addition to supporting force generation, through training, Thales will provide direct maintenance support, which includes the provision of trained personnel to enhance the Army’s front-line engineering capacity.
Other important areas of support include a flexible, responsive technical query service; maintenance and updates of technical documentation and supply support, and the repair and deep storage maintenance for the equipment held in reserve.
The award of this contract will sustain around 160 high-quality engineering jobs at locations across the UK including Crawley, Leicester, Bristol and Boscombe Down.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This £80 million agreement ensures the British Army’s Watchkeeper system will provide UK troops with next-generation battlefield intelligence for years to come. Sustained support for Watchkeeper is a key part of the UK Government’s 10-year £178 billion equipment plan to provide our Armed Forces with the kit they need now and into the future.”
“Watchkeeper is a valuable asset to the UK Armed Forces and Thales is proud to continue the support we have provided to the British Army. The Future Support contract will optimize the performance and support to Watchkeeper, ensuring the UK Armed Forces remain flexible and agile to respond to future operational demands,” said Pierre Eric Pommellet, Thales Executive Vice-President, Defence Mission Systems.
Building on the previous initial support contract, Thales and the UK Ministry of Defence have worked together to provide a value for money solution that will meet the needs of the UK Armed Forces and ensures it has the serviceable equipment and training solution in place to generate increased capacity for operations over the coming years.
Watchkeeper is the first operationally proven Unmanned Aircraft System developed and built in the UK, providing real-time, enhanced situational awareness for troops on the ground, making significant contributions to reducing risk and loss of life.
Thales in the UK is the Prime Contractor and Design Authority for the Watchkeeper Tactical Unmanned Air System (UAS), which is the largest UAS contract in Europe.
In February 2014, Watchkeeper was awarded a full Release To Service (RTS), following rigorous safety and airworthiness reviews to ensure the system can be operated safely by the British Army.
Watchkeeper was introduced into service in August 2014 and deployed to Afghanistan. The system is currently being operated on a near daily basis from Aberporth for flight trials and in Ascension in support of Army flying training.
Watchkeeper is also the first unmanned aircraft in UK aviation history to fly alongside manned aircraft in controlled civilian airspace. The first flight took place on Wednesday 30 September 2015.