France evaluates Watchkeeper UAS

British and French military procurement agencies have begun an evaluation of the Watchkeeper tactical unmanned aerial vehicle by Thales UK.

The evaluation, which began late last month, is being conducted for France by the French agency DGA and the British Ministry of Defense’s Defense Equipment and Support organization under a defense cooperation treaty.

“The assessment of the British Watchkeeper by the French army will allow our forces to define the conditions of close operational cooperation,” DGA said.

Thales UK was contracted last month to train French operators of the aircraft for the in-flight evaluations, as well as transport, logistics and maintenance for them.

The Watchkeeper is tactical UAV intended for ground forces that the British Ministry of Defense acquired in 2005.

The Watchkeeper, the result of a joint venture between Thales and Elbit Systems of Israel, is based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 UAV. It has a payload capacity of 330 pounds and a flight endurance of about 17 hours.