The UK tentacle of French arms giant Thales is delighted today to announce that its new “Watchkeeper” drone aircraft for the British Army has made its first flight in UK airspace. The machine first flew in 2008, above Israel, where the Hermes 450 it is based on is made.
The 20-minute Watchkeeper flight took place yesterday at the new ParcAberporth drone-drome in Wales, operated by controversial MoD selloff bonanza firm Qinetiq, which it is hoped will become a huge economic boon for Wales as the UK robocraft business booms in future. For now though, the main job it has is testing Watchkeeper.
The Watchkeeper itself is a modification of the Hermes 450 craft from Elbit of Israel, which the British Army is already using in Afghanistan under a lease deal with Elbit and Thales. Watchkeeper is superior to a basic Hermes 450, however, as it carries a ground-moving-target-indicator radar (developed with the help of Thales’ French operations) in addition to its electro-optical spyeye package.
The plan is for the British Watchkeepers and their engines to be made (or assembled, anyway) in Blighty. The aircraft will be put together at a company in Leicester called U-TacS, 51 per cent owned by Elbit – thus, Israeli-controlled. The UK engine-making factory will be fully Israeli-owned.
Apart from Thales’ I-MASTER Franco-UK radar, various other European components will replace the ones used by Israel in the Hermes 450. This process is described by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Thales as essentially endowing Britain with a new unmanned-aircraft manufacturing base boasting 2000+ well-paid, skilled British jobs. This is the main reason why it is taking years and costing hundreds of millions to field a fairly ordinary radar+EO surveillance aircraft.
So I guess there’s still a ways to go on BDS where the MOD are involved…(it’s almost as if the military and the UK government are not at the forefront of human rights, quick someone call the Decents and alert their superior moral senses, the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan may possibly not be about building creches). The base for this testing is the UAV centre at ParcAberporth (& Google map). Of course the skilled jobs are trumpeted and with little choice the fact it is making a living out of death does not get a look in, you can’t pay a mortgage with good intentions, thus capitalism marches on with its evil flying robots of death. Protests in 2004 against the site of course fell on deaf ears when corporate profit and political influence peddling in the war-on-terro era trumps all notions of…well morality-
“We are very unhappy at the proposal and we know many local people are also concerned about it,” said Rod Stallard, vice-chairman of CND Cymru yesterday. “It’s been stated by the US Navy that this type of aircraft will have an armed offence capability by 2015. We don’t think Wales should be used as the site for producing such an offensive weapon. To have public money pumped into something like this is ridiculous. We should be supporting local businesses, not giving public money to multi-national companies to produce killing machines. It’s not for rural Wales, or for anywhere else.”
Local resident Keith Haworth said there were a number of questions about the project that needed to be answered.
He added, “Wales may want to be seen as the new Celtic Tiger, but is investment in remote-controlled weapons delivery technology the face a peace-orientated nation wishes to present to the world?”
ParcAberporth was created under the auspice of the legendarily corrupt patronage machine/quango the Welsh Development Agency which is now simply the Welsh Assembly Government’s Department of Economy and Transport and the privatised Qinetiq, which was sold off cheap to the Empire’s corporate war machine. Rod Stallard had it right ‘To have public money pumped into something like this is ridiculous. We should be supporting local businesses, not giving public money to multi-national companies to produce killing machines.’ Thankfully we have an election now where we can vote and change all that… oh I am funny.