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Thales Watchkeeper WK450

Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Thales Watchkeeper WK450

Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)


The Thales Watchkeeper WK450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is the British-modified equivalent of the Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 UAV series.
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ORIGIN: United Kingdom
YEAR: 2014
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Thales - UK / Elbit - Israel
OPERATORS: United Kingdom

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 19.69 feet (6 meters)
WIDTH: 34.45 feet (10.5 meters)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 992 pounds (450 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Wankel rotary 52 horsepower engine driving a three-bladed propeller arranged in "pusher" configuration.
SPEED (MAX): 109 miles-per-hour (175 kilometers-per-hour; 94 knots)
RANGE: 124 miles (200 kilometers; 108 nautical miles)
CEILING: 18,045 feet (5,500 meters; 3.42 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 900 feet-per-minute (274 meters-per-minute)

None. Payload of optics and mission-minded sensors/tracking systems.

Series Model Variants
• Watchkeeper WK450 - Base Series Designation


Detailing the development and operational history of the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).  Entry last updated on 6/29/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Thales "Watchkeeper" WK450 is the British Army derivative of the Israeli Elbit "Hermes" 450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) - or simply "drone" as it is referred to in mainstream media. The British military is currently working with Thales through the development of the Watchkeeper that is intended to serve in the intelligence gathering, surveillance and target acquisition role for near-future battlefield service. The program began in 2005 and has since seen a service entry delay of three years along with growing project expenses to the point that Watchkeeper has been under threat for cancelation or restructuring altogether. As it stands in October of 2013, the Watchkeeper is undergoing active training with British personnel in Wales and is awaiting full certification for use in manned airspace in southern England where it will be used in conjunction with artillery training (Boscombe Down). During its commitment in Afghanistan, the British Army has relied on the American General Atomics MQ-9 "Reaper" and Israeli "Hermes" UAVs though these have always been viewed as interim solutions not entirely tailored to British Army needs.

The Thales Watchkeeper makes use of a single Wankel rotary engine driving a propeller assembly at the rear of the fuselage. The fuselage is of a cigar shape with an aerodynamically-refined nose cone. Wings are straight appendages mounted at the shoulder while the tail unit sports a pair of outward-canted vertical fins negating the use of horizontal tail planes. The undercarriage consists of a three-legged arrangement with each leg managing a single wheel. The undercarriage is static and does not retract. An optics assembly is seated just aft of the nose leg with full 360-degree traversal. An air inlet is fitted at the extreme end of the fuselage underside to aspirate the Wankel engine installation. As the Watchkeeper is not (yet) cleared to carry external munitions of any kind, its payload of up to 150 kilograms is made up mainly of optics and special mission equipment for its intended battlefield roles. The onboard engine and fuel stores configuration supply the aircraft with a mission endurance window of some 17 hours before returning to base. Overall, the Watchkeeper system is intended for low-/medium-level flight and long acceptable loitering times to fulfill its mission scope.

Despite the project's 2005 origination, progress on the Watchkeeper product has been relatively slow to date. A procurement order for 54 systems was unveiled in 2007 though a first flight of a test vehicle was not recorded until April 2010, pushing back the formal expected delivery date of operational-level Watchkeepers considerably (the UAV was expected to officially enter service in September of 2010). As it now stands, the system will not be made operational until sometime in late 2013 or, more likely, 2014.

The Watchkeeper test vehicle has since accrued 1,000 flight hours on over 600 test flights.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 120mph
Lo: 60mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (109mph).

Graph average of 90 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Thales Watchkeeper WK450's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
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Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (54)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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