PARIS — France will begin on Nov. 12 six months of field trials and evaluation of the Watchkeeper tactical UAV as part of bilateral cooperation with Britain, a French Defense Ministry spokesman, Army Gen. Martin Klotz, said Nov. 8.
The British Defense Equipment & Support unit of the Defense Ministry signed a contract Oct. 22 with Thales UK on the trials for the French Army, he told journalists. No value was given for the contract. The number of aircraft units has not yet been decided.
“The evaluation of the British Watchkeeper system by the French Army will allow our forces to define the conditions of close operational cooperation,” the ministry said in a statement.
French troops from the 61st Artillery Regiment will be trained and operate the Watchkeeper system in Britain with the 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery and staff from Thales UK. The trials will run from Nov. 12 to March 29.
In 2013, the trials will be held at Istres, southern France, from April to June.
Britain signed in 2005 an 800 million pound ($1.3 billion) contract with Thales UK for supply of the Watchkeeper UAV, based on the Hermes 450 from Elbit Systems.