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The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): Networked enabled capability is the way we intend to improve our operational effectiveness on the battlefield through more efficient and effective sharing and exploitation of information by our armed forces, both with each other and with our coalition partners. We have recognised that unmanned aerial vehiclesUAVshave the potential to contribute significantly though their ability to provide persistent surveillance of the battlefield, providing UK commanders with accurate, timely and high quality imagery to support decision making.
Last year my predecessor announced the selection of Thales Defence Ltd as the preferred bidder for the WATCHKEEPER tactical UAV programme. We have now negotiated an affordable solution with the company and I am pleased to announce today that we can move forward to the demonstration and manufacture phase of this important programme, subject to finalisation of a contract with Thales, worth around £700 million. We plan to deliver this capability incrementally from 2010.
Thales Defence Ltd is an international company directly employing some 11,000 people in the UK. It leads a strong international team including Elbit Systems Ltd, Cubic Defence and Boeing. Thales will lead on systems integration and bring considerable experience in sensors and command and control systems to the programme. Thales have confirmed their intention to complete the bulk of production in the UK, so this announcement is very good news for UK industry. The company estimates that up to 2,000 UK jobs, in Crawley, Leicester and across the UK, will be created or sustained and with export success this could rise further.
The WATCHKEEPER system is a new capability that will provide an all-weather, day and night capability. By integrating long endurance unmanned air vehicles, advanced sensor payloads and ground control facilities we will be able to direct surveillance and reconnaissance activities from the ground, putting fewer
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lives at risk, gather information, enhance our target acquisition ability and cue weapon systems in a hostile environment.
This decision to fund a contract for the development and manufacture phase of this programme is a major step forward and demonstrates significant progress in the delivery of new capability and the migration towards NEC. Our evaluation of Thales' bid has been extremely thorough and we have engaged fully with the company to ensure we obtain the best value for money and the right equipment for our armed forces.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): The commander-in-chief, Royal Air Force Personnel and Training Command has set the chief executive of the Training Group Defence Agency the following targets for Financial Year 200506:
To compensate for the variations in the individual pipelines, successful achievement will be assumed if the total number of graduations is within 5 per cent. of target requirement. This KT subsumes the need for separate KTs for each of the specialisations. Individual Targets continue to be set for each specialisation for the next four years and are monitored through the Training Group Performance Management Plan.
|Commissioned aircrew Outturn||5% of target requirement|
|Non-Commissioned Aircrew Outturn||5% of target requirement|
|Overall Outturn||5% of target requirement