Feeds

Blighty's expensive Watchkeeper spy-drone in further delays

Extra bonuses: It's unarmed and needs Israeli support

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The troubled, extremely expensive Watchkeeper project intended to supply unmanned surveillance aircraft to the Royal Artillery has hit further technical delays. The first robot spyplanes should have been delivered in February - eight months later than the original contract called for - but they will now arrive "toward year's end".

The Watchkeeper in Israel, where most of the tests thus far have taken place. Credit: Thales

Gets off the ground by burning money

Aviation Week reports on the new slippage in Watchkeeper's delivery date, which was revealed by executives from contractor Thales during a discussion of the company's 2010 performance.

According to Av Week the Thales execs claimed that the new difficulties had previously been revealed "in a report issued by Britain’s National Audit Office and have now been resolved".

However, the last NAO report to mention Watchkeeper, the 2010 Defence Major Projects Report issued last October, lists the Watchkeeper's in-service date as February 2011 - noting that this represents a further two-month day from the previous year's forecast (when the project began in 2005 it was planned that the first aircraft would be delivered last June).

According to the NAO, the Watchkeeper problems result from "technical difficulties". The audit office noted that almost every area of the project seemed to be in trouble, saying "the Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle has the most lines of development assessed as ‘At risk’ (six, with only Doctrine and Organisation assessed as ‘To be met’)".

Watchkeeper is currently forecast to cost the Ministry of Defence £889m for 54 aircraft, putting each aircraft at £16.5m or approximately $27m at today's rates. It is based on the Israeli Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft which is already in service with the British Army in Afghanistan under a lease arrangement pending Watchkeeper's arrival. Engines and airframes will be assembled in new UK factories (in a part-Israeli-owned joint venture) using licenced Israeli technology and some European components.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.