Procurement: June 12, 2002


The British are trying to move forward on their Watchkeeper UAV (recon drone) program, but cost is a major issue. The current drone system, Phoenix, was an expensive disappointment and its loss rates (in operational missions in the Balkans) has been far higher than expected. The new Watchkeeper program is the union of two previous programs, Sender (designed for battalion battlefield recon with an operational radius of 30 kilometers) and Spectator (designed for operational recon with an operational radius of 150 kilometers). As a result, bidders are offering two aircraft (or to do only half of the mission). There is great pressure to pick a British design and contractor, but all of the proven designs are American or Israeli. --Stephen V Cole


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