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09 September 2016

MSPO 2016: Thales Presents the Watchkeeper X for Polish GRYF

During MSPO 2016, Thales presented the Watchkeeper X UAS, an export version of Watchkeeper 450. The Watchkeeper X UAS is a strong proposal for Poland, which has launched the GRYF (GRIFFIN) programme. Its current goal is to procure a total of 12 sets (four vehicles in each) of tactical UASs of medium range. They will be combined with the ZEFIR (ZEPHYRUS) project of four sets of MALE class. It was confirmed that Poland is now considering offers for ZEFIR from the United States (MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle) and Israel (Hermes 900). Two sets are to be procured before 2022 and two after.
The Watchkeeper X, unveiled during last year’s the DSEI in London, made its Polish debut this year at Kielce. It shares the airframe, human-machine interface and flight control software of a standard Watchkeeper 450, and maintains CS23/STANAG 4671 airworthiness standards. However, the goal of the X programme was to design and produce an advanced export version of Watchkeeper, selected by the British Army as its tactical UAS. Watchkeeper X is a modular system, which means exploitation options selected by the customer can be grouped into four broad categories, focused on sensors, exploitation, mobility, and effectors. Potential payloads are surveillance sensors (including lug-and-play HD EO/IR turret or ground/maritime radars), electronic support measures (RESM), cryptographic electronic support measures (CESM), communications intelligence systems (CommINT), remote terminals, target indicators, recorders or additional data-links.
The Watchkeeper X offered to Poland is armed with four FFLMMs (free-fall lightweight multi-role missiles). They weigh 6 kg each, with a high-explosive warhead. It has a dual guidance system – either by GPS or by a laser. An armed version of GRYF is a requirement of the Ministry of National Defence.

Thales representatives confirm the company is in advanced stages of talks with the Polish Armaments Group over offering the tactical system to Poland. They also state they are ready to propose a comprehensive in-country work package to Poland.

Robert Czulda