Since being deployed in mid-2007, the H-450 UAS has flown in excess of 19,000 hours, Thales UK says in a statement.
The UOR contract is being fulfilled by Thales UK through a highly innovative ‘fly-by-the-hour’ agreement originally signed in mid-June 2007.
The Watchkeeper system comes into service in 2011, replacing the H-450, and will provide enhanced capability. This includes electro-optic/infra red (EO/IR) imaging and synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) capabilities.
The first production Watchkeeper UAV platform undertook its maiden flight on 16 April 2008. “This is the first air vehicle to be designed and built to meet the demanding requirements of the UK MoD. On 23 July last year automated take-off and landing flights of the Watchkeeper UAV using Thales’s MAGIC ATOLS were successfully performed and validated,” Thales adds.
“Last November we announced Watchkeeper first system flight trials, with the autonomous flight taking place under the system guidance of the Watchkeeper ground control software and fully integrated within the ground control station (GCS). These trials of the UAS will continue throughout 2009, and will validate the key mission system capability of the system.