The Thales WATCHKEEPER-X provides, “a more modular, more tuneable solution for operators, enabling them to tune effects more closely for flexible and agile operations,” the company’s Matt Moore told MT during Farnborough 2016 this week.
The modular approach to enhancing the UAS comes in four distinct variations, according to Moore.
First is mobility: the system can now be operated, “from the back of a truck,” in all weathers, in operating environments ranging from -36°C to, “in excess of +49°,” and in the demanding operational conditions of high altitudes, Moore said.
Second is sensor fit. The current British Army standard is a two gimbal arrangement with a total of seven sensors, Moore points out, but the company is now fitting a FLIR Systems STAR SAFIRE 380HDc sensor, which will fly for the first time early next year. As a direct replacement for the current sensor fit, the new 15in turret will be, “pretty much plug and play,” Moore said, adding that in this configuration WATCHKEEPER is being offered for the CRYF (GRIFFON) requirement for the Polish Armed Forces. Discussions with potential customers are also under way in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe, he added.
Exploitation is the third ‘module’ for system improvements, with a newly developed operator training system providing enhanced capabilities for training system operators to, “fly the mission, rather than fly the aircraft.” The most obvious difference in the new capability is the lack of a joystick, further emphasising the philosophy that the main objective of training operators is no longer a physical ‘control of flight’ issue.
Effectors for the fourth area of improvement. WATCHKEEPER-X is being displayed at Farnborough weaponised with multiple launch racks for the Thales LIGHT MULTIROLE MISSILE. Although specific requirements have not yet been issued for weapons carriage by the British Army, there is interest both at home and abroad, including Poland, according to Moore.