May 17, 2014
British Pilots Finally Training On Watchkeeper
It has been a long time coming. Initially due for entry into service three years ago, Watchkeeper has not had an easy introduction, facing extra scrutiny as the first UAS to be certified by the U.K.’s new military air safety body, the Military Aviation Authority (MAA). Meanwhile, the loss of one of its precursors in Afghanistan, a leased-in Hermes 450, has resulted in a radical change in the configuration of the army’s UAS operations, to those more closely matching that of a typical flying squadron in the Army Air Corps or the Royal Air Force.
In March, the system was given its interim release to service, allowing army crews from the Royal Artillery to begin operations. Until then, army pilots had only been able to fly through the use of a Military Flight Test Permit (MFTP) in conjunction with Thales test pilots.
Once all 54 platforms and 14 ground stations are in service, they will be pooled between two front-line active-duty units, the 32 and 47 Regiments of Royal Artillery, each with five flights using five systems each.