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New UAV "WATCHKEEPER": UK MOD give contract to Thales Group

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posted on Jul, 20 2004 @ 09:24 AM
In 2000, the UK Ministry of Defence decided to replace their Phoenix UAV and requested bids. Today it has been announced that the contract for the new UAV system, named WATCHKEEPER, was given to a consortium managed by the Thales group.

France's Thales picked for UK spy plane deal
Tue 20 July, 2004 14:07

FARNBOROUGH/LONDON (Reuters) - The government has named a consortium led by French defence electronics maker Thales as the preferred bidder for a $1.5 billion (800 million pounds) military aerial observation contract.

The Ministry of Defence picked the Thales group -- which includes Israel's Elbit Systems, Anglo-Dutch LogicaCMG, Vega Group and Marshall -- over a group led by U.S.-based Northrop Grumman.

The "Watchkeeper" contract, valued at around 800 million pounds, will supply the British army with a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, used in military surveillance.

France's Thales said in March it would base its UAV business in Britain if it won the contract.

Thales said in March it would reveal details of its plans after the bidding date, including where in Britain components such as airframes, engines, sensors and ground stations will be manufactured.

A market source in Tel Aviv told Reuters that Elbit would receive about half of the value of the contract, or $750 million.

Elbit officials would not immediately comment on the value of their share of the deal. They said Watchkeeper was due to enter service in 2006.

The operational date of 2006 may be a tad optimistic, UAV development is notorious for "development creep".

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