Israel hosts Watchkeeper test flight

The Watchkeeper unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle due to come into service with UK armed forces in 2010 has completed its first successful test flight in northern Israel.

Thales UK, prime contractor for the project, said that the aircraft made its maiden flight at the Megido airfield on 16 April. Testing of automatic control equipment, radar and sensors are due to be carried out during the course of 2008.

Designed to provide UK troops with an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability that can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, Watchkeeper is fully autonomous and has a de-icing capability that allows it operate in all weathers. It will be manufactured in Leicester by U-Tacs, a joint company formed by Thales and Elbit Systems.

According to Richard Deakin, managing director of Thales̵7; UK aerospace business, 2008 will be an important year for the programme that will see the testing and integration of the automatic take-off and landing system, the I-Master radar and electro-optical, infra-red and laser target designator payloads.

̶0;The I-Master radar flight trials have been extremely encouraging. The synthetic-aperture radar imagery seen in the initial trials is outstanding and testing the ground moving target indicator functionality has just commenced,̶1; he said.

Image: Watchkeeper in flight in Israel

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