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Thales Watchkeeper WK450


Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)


United Kingdom | 2014



"The Thales Watchkeeper WK450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is the British-modified equivalent of the Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 UAV series."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/02/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this 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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
1 x Wankel rotary 52 horsepower engine driving a three-bladed propeller arranged in "pusher" configuration.
Propulsion
109 mph
175 kph | 94 kts
Max Speed
18,045 ft
5,500 m | 3 miles
Service Ceiling
124 miles
200 km | 108 nm
Operational Range
900 ft/min
274 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
0
(UNMANNED)
Crew
19.7 ft
6.00 m
O/A Length
34.4 ft
(10.50 m)
O/A Width
992 lb
(450 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) .
None. Payload of optics and mission-minded sensors/tracking systems.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 family line.
Watchkeeper WK450 - Base Series Designation
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Thales Watchkeeper WK450. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 54 Units

Contractor(s): Thales - UK / Elbit - Israel
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 120mph
Lo: 60mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (109mph).

Graph Average of 90 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
54
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
1 / 1
Image of the Thales Watchkeeper WK450
Image copyright Crown Copyright / British Army MoD; Peter Russell LBIPP.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
RECONNAISSANCE
UNMANNED
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Thales Watchkeeper WK450 Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) appears in the following collections:
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