Watchkeeper was originally created as a bespoke system, based on the Elbit Hermes 450, for the British Army, which calls it the WK450.
Watchkeeper X, which the company describes as "a new approach", essentially strips off the UK-requirement specific equipment to create a base system, upon which modular options (divided into four categories) can be added.
The Watchkeeper X thus retains the basic airframe, engine, flight control software, and human machine interface (HMI) of the WK450 Watchkeeper, in order to retain the former's hard-won NATO STANAG 4671 and European Aviation Safety Agency CS-23 air worthiness certification.
Onto this base platform, "customers can pick and mix a range of packages to suit their requirements", Matt Moore, Watchkeeper lead at Thales UK, said on 16 September. The four packages are: sensors, exploitation, mobility, and effectors.
As standard the Watchkeeper X features a day/night navigational camera, but can be fitted with a range of optional sensors, including mixed payloads of plug-and-play HD EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) turrets, ground surveillance radars, maritime surveillance radars, communications intelligence systems (CommINT), radar electronic support measures (RESM), and cryptographic electronic support measures (CESM).
Options available for mobility include, among others: de-icing; expeditionary ground control stations (GCS) and support equipment; ship GCS; permanent GCS infrastructure; wheel-mobile rapid deployment/re-deployment equipment; automatic take-off and landing systems; and rough airfield kits.
Exploitation modules include: datalinks; encryption; remote terminals; recorders; inflight/post flight analysis; data sharing; and voice communications.
Meanwhile, following Thales and WB Electronics unveiling a weaponised Watchkeeper at the start of September at the MSPO exhibition in Poland, direct effectors for the Watchkeeper X include the Free Fall Light Multirole Missile (FF LLM), while indirect effectors include laser designators/target markers; weapons control systems; and command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) target authorisation systems.