| LONDON, July 16
LONDON, July 16 The UK business of Thales
expects to start receiving overseas orders worth
hundreds of millions of pounds for its Watchkeeper drone from
next year, buoying Britain's plan to grow its defence exports.
Watchkeeper, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), was
developed by the UK division of Thales, Europe's largest defence
electronics company, for Britain's Ministry of Defence as part
of an 800 million pound ($1.4 billion) contract signed ten years
"We will be taking Watchkeeper to the export market. There's
a number of very strong expressions of interest in Watchkeeper,"
Victor Chavez, the chief executive of Thales Group's
UK business told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
France remains very interested in the project, Chavez said,
adding that other European nations and members of NATO would be
other likely buyers.
"I think we'll be seeing the first export orders in 2015.
They would run to hundreds of millions of pounds for each
order," he added.
The British government laid out plans on Monday to try to
grow defence industry exports. The sector employs more than
160,000 people and generated 9.8 billion pounds in exports in
The unarmed drone, which was cleared to start military
flight training with the British Army in March and is the first
UAS permitted to fly in the country's airspace, and will be used
for surveillance and intelligence purposes.
"We have a unique proposition in terms of the only tactical
UAS certified to European civil aircraft standards certified to
fly in this sort of airspace," Chavez said.
($1 = 0.5838 British Pounds)
(Editing by Mark Potter)