This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
The WK450 Watchkeeper, which is based on Elbit’s Hermes 450, is currently being used solely by the British military, but recently Thales has presented a new export version of this Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and this upgraded version is fit to Poland’s requirements of a tactical UAV to incorporate into its military.
This armed tactical UAV, called Watchkeeper X, or WK X, adds more modules to the WK450, among them mobility, sensors and more. These modules will offer to tailor it to the client’s needs. The WK X is armed and its sensors will mark relevant targets and allow operating against these targets in real-time. It is not yet decided what weapon will be implemented to the new Watchkeeper platform, but one of the options is Thales’ LMM ground-to-air missile. The new UAV can take-off from improvised runways, meaning it can be deployed in various places that don’t have prepared runways.
Poland has not yet released an official tender for a tactical UAV, but is understood to be in discussions about what its armed forces require. The procurement process is still not clear. It could be an open tender, commercial off-the-shelf sale, or a government-to-government deal. There is also the possibility that the government will require a Polish prime contractor. A request for information was issued in 2014, but Polish parliamentary elections in October will push back the release of a request for proposal until the following months. “It is speculative, but of all the players I think we are the most flexible,” says Mark Stevens, director of international business development at Thales UK. “I don’t think Poland can make a decision of this magnitude before the election.”