THE Army’s latest ‘Spy in the Sky’ has been unveiled ahead of its final testing which will take place over the Ministry of Defence’s Salisbury Plain training area.
It will also be in the skies over Andover.
T h e Watchkeeper is an unmanned re c o n n a i s - sance and surveillance a i r c r a f t which has been developed by Thales UK and will fly from MoD B o s c o m b e Down before supporting on the front line.
The unmanned air system (UAS) can fly for longer and further and has improved sensors for greater quality surveillance images.
A new arrangement has seen hanging airs p a c e s between 8,000 and 16,000 feet covering an area to the west of Andover and the whole of S a l i s b u r y available for use during testing which began this week.
Colonel Mark Thornhill, commander of the 1st Artillery Brigade who will operate Watchkeeper said: “The arrival of Watchkeeper at Boscombe Down is an important milestone in this programme and we are excited about being able to begin training on this new and impressive capability.
“The use of unmanned air systems is such an integral part of our work that I cannot envisage future missions where they are not used.”
Watchkeeper has a wingspan of 35 feet and can fly at an altitude of 16,000ft with a 20-hour endurance while being operated by a specialist team on the ground.
Matt Moore of Thales UK who have developed the Watchkeeper said: “This is not just an aircraft. We have met a very demanding and robust standard requested by the Ministry of Defence, testing has been key and has taken many years.
“It can operate in the most arduous of weather conditions and has been tested in temperatures as high as 49 degrees and as low as -36 degrees to make sure the system can still operate.”
Col Thornhill added: “Watchkeeper will be ready to support United Kingdom operations in the coming months and years.”