98. MoD's memorandum stated:
The Watchkeeper system will consist of unmanned air
vehicles, sensors, and ground control stations. It will provide
UK commanders in the land environment with a 24-hour, all weather,
Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance
(ISTAR) capability, providing accurate, timely and high quality
imagery to answer commanders' critical information requirements.
The programme is currently completing the Assessment
Phase and proposals for the delivery of Watchkeeper have been
received from Thales and Northrup Grumman. The current forecast
cost of the Assessment Phase is £51.7 million. The main investment
decision (Main Gate) is currently planned for later in 2004.
MoD's memorandum stated that the definition and timing of the
in-service date for an initial operating capability for Watchkeeper
would not be confirmed until Main Gate. Proposals have been solicited
on the basis of delivering UAV capability to support a Medium
Scale warfighting deployment by the 'end of 2006'.
Last year we were told that the initial operating capability was
planned for 'early 2006',
it therefore appears that some delays are already being experienced.
99. We examined Watchkeeper in our report on the
New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review and concluded that:
The MoD's declared determination to "make sure
we really do keep our forces equipped with the most up-to-date
technology" does not sit with the lack of urgency in acquiring
an effective networked UAV capability.
100. We are concerned that there are signs that
Watchkeeper's initial operating capability is likely to be later
than was being forecast last year. This appears to support the
conclusion we drew last yearthat MoD is still finding some
difficulty in balancing increased procurement agility against
decreased risk. If this is to be done successfully, it is important,
in the assessing of bids, that the technical and Defence Industrial
Policy issues are considered concurrently. Failure to do so may
not only lead to unnecessary levels of risk but also to delays
in the decision making process. We expect MoD to identify ways
to restrict any further slippage in delivering the Watchkeeper