UK: The Ministry of Defence,UK, has recently announced that British Army’s much-delayed Watchkeeper tactical UAV programme has moved a step closer to operational deployment with the Thales UK machine being granted an initial release to service. Royal Artillery pilots will start flying the UAV from Boscombe Down in restricted airspace over the military training area on Salisbury Plain in southwest England.
“Release to service is a major milestone in this important program," said Philip Dunne, Defence Procurement Minister. Watchkeeper, derived from the Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450, was scheduled to enter service in 2010 but has been delayed by a string of technical problems, updates to meet Army requirements for operations in Afghanistan and regulatory issues. The release to service moves the Watchkeeper program from the testing and evaluation phase, previously undertaken by Thales operators in the approved test airspace over west Wales, to full flight training for British Army operators.
Source: Defense news