The UK Hermes 450 (H-450) fleet of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) have now flown more than 30,000 operational hours - over 2,000 sorties – and is providing the lions’ share of airborne ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) supporting UK forces in current operations.
Thales UK’s ISTAR service-provision contract began in July 2007 in response to an Urgent Operational Requirement (UoR) contract issued by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), and will run through to contract completion in October 2010 which could potentially be extended until April 2011 when the H-450s will be phased out as the newly developed WATCHKEEPER unmanned air system (UAS) delivers frontline capability.
WATCHKEEPER will provide enhanced capability, including electro-optic/infra red (EO/IR) imaging, and synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) capabilities. Flight and systems trials in the UK, at Parc Aberporth in West Wales, are due to commence soon.
Alex Dorrian, CEO Thales UK, says: “Over the last few years the value of the H-450 UAS in providing crucial ISTAR capability to the UK Armed Forces has been well and truly confirmed. Building on lessons learnt on current operations, WATCHKEEPER will also soon be an invaluable asset for commanders on the ground.”
Thales UK is the prime contractor for the MoD’s two tactical unmanned air systems programmes: the H-450 fleet that Thales UK owns and leases to the MoD under an innovative ‘ISTAR-by-the-hour’ contract; and the more capable Watch¬keeper system that will be MoD owned and run.
Thales is a global technology leader for the Aerospace and Space, Defence, Security and Transportation markets. In 2009 the company generated revenues of £11.5 billion (12.9 billion euros) with 68,000 employees in 50 countries. With its 25,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equip¬ment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers as local partners.
Thales UK employs 8,500 staff based at 40 locations. In 2009 Thales UK's revenues were around £1.5 billion.