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Defence & Security Industry - France

Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:51 AM
France negotiates acquisition of Watchkeeper drones against purchase of VBCI armoured by UK.
According to the French Ministry of Defense, the French Army could buy British-made Thales tactical UAVs Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Watchkeeper depending of the purchase of Nexter VBCI 8x8 armoured infantry fighting vehicles by the British government.
According to the French Ministry of Defense, the French Army could buy British-made Thales tactical UAVs Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Watchkeeper depending of the purchase of Nexter VBCI 8x8 armoured infantry fighting vehicles by the British government.
The Nexter VBCI is a combat proven vehicle, since 2010 it has been successfully deployed in Afghanistan by the French Army.


The final text of the Declaration on Security and Defence signed at the UK-France Summit in January 2014 has now been released and it reveals some details about future European drone projects.

London and Paris will equally fund a total £120 million, two-year common feasibility study for the combat drone, dubbed the Future Air Combat System, the French MoD said in a statement.

The two countries agreed to investigate the possibility of working together on an advanced combat drone, with France agreeing to evaluate the Anglo-Israeli Watchkeeper drone. France is considering ordering since several years, the Watchkeeper drone which is in service with the British Armed Forces.

The acquisition of same UAVs by the two European countries facilitates international military operations and can reduce production costs and support.

Laurent Collet- Billon of the French Army procurement agency (DGA) said during a press conference, that the purchase of British Watchkeper UAV by the French army is related to the decision by the Britsih government to acquire the VBCI 8x8 armoured infantry fighting vehicle, designed and manufactured by the French Company Nexter Systems.

On cooperation in Europe, France has sent a combat vehicle, Véhicule Blindé Combat d’Infanterie (VBCI), to the UK, while the French Army is testing the Watchkeeper tactical UAV from the British Army.

The VBCI is the latet generation of 8x8 armoured infantry fighting vehicle in service with the French army. It is in service with the French Army since 2008.

VBCI now constitutes the spearhead of the French Army’s infantry capability and Rapid Reaction Force. As such it has already been deployed in a wide variety of missions abroad from peacekeeping (Lebanon) to counter-insurgency (Afghanistan) or more conventional combat operations (Mali), further demonstrating its inbuilt operational versatility.

VBCI's major advantages is its protection, an essential requirement for modern armed forces, and highlighted by the experience acquired in the latest NATO led operations. Having been designed to be capable of participating alongside Main Battle Tanks in high-intensity combat operations, VBCI’s levels of protection outclasses that of existing armoured vehicles.


Watchkeeper is based on the Elbit Hermes 450 UAV design and each aircraft is believed to cost about £15 million.

Watchkeeper WK450 is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for all weather, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance use by the British Army. The Watchkeeper WK450 is based on the Elbit Hermes 450 UAV. The engine is a rotary Wankel engine. It has a mass of 450 kg and a payload capacity of 150 kg, with a typical endurance of 17 hours.

An agreement for the MBDA helicopter-borne missile, dubbed Anti-Navire Léger/Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy), is a step toward British and French interdependence, based on a specialization of industrial skills, a second French official said.

The €500 million missile program is equally shared between the partner nations. Paris hopes the consolidation move will send a signal to other governments as European defense budgets erode, the official said.

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