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Thales' Watchkeeper Bid

Thales' Watchkeeper Bid

2500 high quality jobs and the creation of a British UAV systems company Source: Thales Airborne Systems

Thales UK announced the details of the industrial content of its bid for the MoD's £800m Watchkeeper programme. The Thales team bid for the Watchkeeper programme will directly create or sustain 2500 high technology UK jobs.

Thales also announced that it will establish a UK company to manufacture tactical unmanned air vehicles (UAV) sub-systems to supply both Watchkeeper and the rapidly growing worldwide UAV market, estimated to be worth around $3bn over the next 10 years – the UK does not currently have the ability to take part in this market. The company, a joint venture of Thales UK and Elbit Systems, will be based in Leicester, with flight-testing due to take place at Cardigan Bay in Wales.

The MoD's Watchkeeper programme will provide the UK armed forces with an essential Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability based on tactical unmanned air vehicles and will be a key component of the UK's drive for Networked Enabled Capability.

Thales UK also outlined the operational benefits of its bid - the air vehicles have higher endurance, lower attrition, and a full system can be deployed to theatre in a single C-130 Hercules aircraft.

John Howe, Vice-Chairman Thales UK said:

"The Thales Watchkeeper team is offering the solution with superior capability, the highest number of high quality UK jobs, technology transfer that will remain in the UK and in the control of the MoD, and the creation of the only UK company able to compete globally in the tactical UAV market – part of the fastest growing defence market. We believe our bid is best for the armed forces, for UK jobs and exports – the Thales bid is the UK bid."

  • Notes to editors

Watchkeeper is due to enter service with the armed forces in 2006 for 30 years. The MoD’s decision is expected at the end of 2004. For more information on Watchkeeper: www.thalesgroup.co.uk/Watchkeeper

Thales UK team members and Watchkeeper specific locations are:

- Thales UK: Crawley, Wells, Leicester, Glasgow, Bury St. Edmunds: Prime contractor; sensor payloads; mission planning management, exploitation and communications; through life support

- JV Co: (Thales/Elbit JV) Leicester, Cardigan Bay: Tactical UAV sub-systems supplier

- Elbit Systems: Lichfield (UAV Engines Ltd): UAV design, UAV engines

- LogicaCMG: Leatherhead: Command and battle space management systems and applications

- Marshall SV: Cambridge: Ground station shelters and support

- Cubic Corporation: Greenford : Data links

- Boeing: London: US/UK future interoperability support and scheduled technology/capability upgrades

- Vega: Welwyn Garden City, Bristol, Fareham: Training partner

- QinetiQ: Boscombe Down, Malvern, Farnborough: Airworthiness consultancy and image data management

- Praxis: Bath: Programme safety consultancy

- Supacat: Honiton: Ground vehicle

  • About Thales UK: Thales UK's defence activities encompass optronics, air defence, sensors, communications and naval systems. The company is the UK's second largest defence contractor and has been a supplier to the MoD since the First World War. Thales employs 11,000 staff in the UK and 62,000 people in 50 countries. In 2003, Thales UK’s revenues were £1.2bn.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).