The UK's MoD, after a sustained campaign of nagging by the Reg defence desk, has revealed how many robot surveillance planes the UK forces will receive under the Watchkeeper programme. The original MoD position was that the number couldn't be released "for operational reasons", and indeed the project webpage is still sticking …
Value for Money?
I think not. There is no way you or anyone else can convince me that these drones are worth 15M each because they aren't. The raw materials to build the things will be a ridiculously low percentage of the final cost. Even the technology attached to the things can't be valued high, not in todays markets with high tech manufacturing being incredibly cheap per unit.
Basically we are paying for the intellectual property, not for the drones. I daresay the actual drones cost less than 100k to build, its not like they are made of platinum or anything.
So here we go, 800M of tax payers money that could easily be used elsewhere and be more beneficial to the public than spy drones.
I would be suprised if it wouldn't cost less than 800M to develop our own drones and build twice as many.
Why do people see these things as value for money when clearly they are nothing more than gold leaf pocket liners. I wonder how many members of the government have "concerns" invested in Thales.
Spin me as much yarn as you like, you will never convince me that this type of military funding is in the best interests of the British people.
Expertise more important than jobs
It's true that the Americans could furnish us with UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) cheaper and faster. But, that £800m is purchasing more than just platforms - it's putting UAV expertise into the UK defence industry. Yes, a lot of Watchkeeper is still being bought from abroad, but that's the point: if we never sponsor R&D in the UK, we'll never have the home base of technology know-how to avoid purchasing from foreign companies. Now the US is a firm ally; but Israel? Do we want to count on them for our military technology? What if they disapprove of a future target of ours? And don't forgot, an awful lot of MOD-bought and UK-built defence solutions go on to be sold again to plenty of other countries - this forms part of the "shameful" aspect of the UK as an international arms dealer, but also forms a significance slice of our export profits as a country. Gaining UAV expertise is an upfront cost, but one that will benefit us security- and profit-wise long term.
The value of military hardware
It seems their is an alternative reality where an over-specced radio controlled plane can cost £15,000,000 and the people buying don't blink while signing the cheques.
It doesn't matter what this plane can do, it is simply not worth this quantity of money. Their are so many things that the military could better spend £800 million on, but for some reason decent body arm and a rifle that is fit for purpose are seen as less important...
Can't BAe build this kind of thing...
...or is there nothing left in the kitty to pay for product development after they've used most of their hard-earned UK-taxpayer-derived cash to pay off Prince Bandar and his relatives in the House of Saud?
The endless cynical comments about cost, capability and 'why didn't we just buy the foreign kit' get tired after a while.
People always moan about the costs of things 'oh, I could do that for only £xxx', but rarely have any clue about the actual development and production cost of the hardware. The costs aren't just pulled out of the air, the contracts tend to be based on estimated price (with data to back it up) plus a small margin on top.
As for saying we could have bought Reapers or something similar, if that was what the spec called for that's what would be delivered. But it wasn't asked for. Because it's always best to make a surveillance platform a surveillance platform, and a weapons platform a weapons platform. Mixing the two gives you something that isn't very good as either.
Also don't forget that most people get their ideas of what various pieces of kit can do from the marketing materials - not exactly reliable. You'd be amazed (or maybe not!) how may times the wonderful, cheap, highly capable kit from the US (or wherever) is actually a POS, though no-one will admit it, and the UK alternative is actually OK because it does what it's claimed to.
Also, a few minor points: There aren't new factories, as far as I can see existing Thales (ex-Racal) facilities are being used. It wouldn't be cheaper to get Elbit to do the work because that's pretty much what's happening with the platform manufacturing anyway - and there isn't much money in metal bashing. French 'expertise' isn't really being used much, the design work is still being done in the UK, mostly ex-Racal again which is definitely British. 'Line of sight' radio isn't a particular problem, everything except HF is more or less line of sight anyway and usually no-one complains. Plus you can always relay via a local C2 platform. Satcoms isn't much use for UAVs because of a) latency, b) weight & power requirements and c) compatibility with other kit, plus you tend to want to save it for proper important stuff.
Ultimately the clever bits are designed and built in the UK, and that's where the money stays. The UAV platform might not be UK sourced, but that's not really a problem as they're simple things, and it's not worth the effort of making a new design. It's the avionics that really matter, and if necessary they can be stuffed into another UAV as and when it becomes necessary
Re: Minor Points
Well if you are so confident that they are worth £15M each, show us the facts to prove it. Outline all the costs including raw materials, manufacturing equipment, factory real estate, labour, logisitics and electronics etc.
The damn thing is nothing more than a hi tech radio controlled toy. There is no justifying 15M quid for something like this, it simply doesn't cost this much at all.
As for your comments about it being limited markup, again, utter tosh until you provide figures to back it up. You would have to make the damn things out of solid gold and have them hand made by <insert deity> to justify the pricetag.
There is absolutely no way this sort of spending on a toy can be justified. It doesn't break any new technological ground, avionics are not new, they are a tried and tested technology for over 100 years, same as all the other technology in these toys, nothing new, just existing tech bolted on. You can come out with as many big words and phrases as you like, but it is still full of shit until we see the actual raw numbers.
Every time I read this sort of discussion, it reminds me of a splendid cartoon (by Jim Unger, IIRC) of a senior military person explaining, with the aid of a flip-chart, how their latest purchase was such good value for money. The item shown was long and pointy, and drew impressed comments from the audience when the price tag was revealed as $15000.
"That seems very reasonable for a missile" ventured someone.
"It's not a missile," replied the presenter, "it's a screw."
All the figures for markups and cost estimate requirements are standard DPA stuff. They may even make the rough outlines publicly available, given everyone works to the same numbers.
Detailed figures are unlikely to ever appear in public because a) they're not the sort of thing that can be released and b) you have to have something to compare to if you want to know if something is 'cheap' or not. (Not that I'd have such things anyway, but I'm familiar with how this kind of program tends to work so can guess at stuff).
But a basic breakdown would be the actual UAV itself, the avionics, and the base-station.
The UAV itself is relatively cheap. This is the bit people see and think is just a big RC plane, which is indeed what it is to some extent. No idea on the cost, but it wouldn't be a particularly high number, low 6 figures probably if that. Mostly because it's an 'aircraft' with all that involves in test and certification, rather than a toy.
The 'avionics' isn't just the bits that fly the plane (and I kind of doubt we had flight computers 100 years ago!), it also includes the sensor suite and any other electronics on the platform.
Of this, the SAR is going to be the big cost item. Getting the antenna array, and the onboard processing small and light enough to fit a UAV is not a cheap job. Mid - 7 figures wouldn't be a surprise for the SAR. The other sensors e.g. IR are going to be cheaper, but not 'cheap'. While in many cases the concepts already exist the specific solutions tend to be new to make them smaller/lighter/better to actually get the project to meet the requirements.
The basestation cost could be almost anything, depending on how complex it is. Assuming a self contained vehicle with other facilities a high 6/low 7 figure sum wouldn't be a surprise.
One thing that people often overlook when considering the costs is that most of the time, the component order quantities are tiny. Most commercial equipment is ordered in quantities of 1000's. Military kit tends to hit 10's, if you're lucky. And the cost per component is therefore dramatically higher. And this assumes you can actually get the stuff in the quantity you want, many suppliers can't cope with supplying 10 of something if they normally sell at an MOQ of 500 - so you either can't buy, or buy stuff you don't use. This affects all sorts of normal type bits, resistors, screws, processors - anything where you'd usually tend to buy in bulk rather than one or two. You can reduce the impact by a standard parts list across multiple programs, but it never goes completely away.
Then you hit the need to buy 'special' MIL-SPEC bits, either semiconductors with the right temperature range (at least a 10x markup from the supplier due to different process/packaging/low volume), or special versions of components - it's not a shock to spend £250 on a connector that would cost £5 for the normal version, just because you *need* the ultralight, robust version.
Then you trip over the manufacturing problems of low quantity - you either can't use the 'cheap' method e.g. you machine something from billet because it's cheaper than tooling for pressing/casting/folding, or you end up with horribly expensive parts that would normally be cheap eg. plastic or rubber parts, or extrusions, that normally would be penny's or a couple of quid in mass production, but with £30K of tooling over a run of 15 start to get expensive. Same with PCB layout/manufacture and all the rest.
And of course you tend to be designing for a 20-25 year service life, at full performance, which is a different ballgame from the 5 year design life of most equipment. Makes a big difference to how things are done, and how much it costs.
Then of course there's all the QA, documentation trail etc. etc. which isn't cheap.
Plus of course the 'program' costs include the NRE costs i.e. development, which is a big fat lump of cash, and looks horrendous spread over 50 units. On 100000 units it wouldn't even show up.
None of this is exactly a surprise - find out how much a development run of 10 prototype Mondeos or Nokia phones costs and you wouldn't believe it either. Or just work out how much an XBox would cost if there were only ever 50 made.
I can see why people think all this stuff is a rip-off, and can't understand why it's so expensive, but the simple reality is that high performance, low production quantity bespoke kit is always expensive. It's not a con, it's not a conspiracy, it's not sloppy engineering or management (apart from *cough* changing customer requirements *cough*), it's simple reality.
RE: Cost Figures
I did read the first 2 paragraphs but after that I gave up as it was painfully clear that your "figures" are utterly unsubstantiated. Show me REAL figures, I am not interested in sweeping generalisations that have zero facts or sources to back them up.
You just wasted what 10 minutes? typing nothing but utterly unsubstantiated claims. Come back when you have some real facts with real sources to back them up.
As for your comment:
"Detailed figures are unlikely to ever appear in public because a) they're not the sort of thing that can be released and b) you have to have something to compare to if you want to know if something is 'cheap' or not. (Not that I'd have such things anyway, but I'm familiar with how this kind of program tends to work so can guess at stuff)."
Utter bollox, it is public money that is being spent, we have every right to demand a complete cost breakdown and the MoD have zero rights to deny us that information. They can't even hide behind national security because cost breakdowns have zero impact on National Security.
The MoD belongs to me, you and every other citizen of the UK, they are answerable to me, you and every other citizen of the UK and they have ZERO independent rights. They are a public facility, nothing more and as such they have a responsibility to tell us EXACTLY how they are spending mine, your's and every other citizen of the UK's money. They also have the obligation to JUSTIFY that spending when questioned about it.
So instead of just talking crap, get ME, YOU and EVERYONE ELSE in the UK the REAL facts and figures. I want a complete breakdown of -all- costs so I can decide for myself whether I believe it is appropriate spending of public money.
Is a bird ?
or is it a plane?
NO it's teddy flying out of the pram
You seem to have a slight misunderstanding of real life. You have zero right to any information, as it forms part of a commercial agreement between DPA and the supplier, and their subcontractors. If DPA is happy with it, that's all that matters - and after all, someone at DPA ultimately has to answer for how they spent the budget to their superiors, who answer to Parliament, who answer to YOU. The National Security argument also holds - any detailed cost breakdown will by necessity give more than enough detail to give all sorts of clues about capability, which is protected information.
The exact same situation will apply to ANY commercial agreement - just because (for example) you were a shareholder in Apple it wouldn't give you the right to know anything about the development and manufacturing costs of an iPod, you just have to accept that it costs what it costs, and that the people paying for the iPod to be built (Apple) will get the best deal out of the contracted manufacturer based on their knowledge of the processes involved, and the submitted bid.
As for talking bollox/crap/shit - bit of a harsh judgment given you know absolutely nothing of the source you're questioning. You'll obviously never learn to trust any sources without independent citation, or any facts without sources. This is the Wikipedia disease; sometimes you have to accept that people might actually have some clue of what they're talking about based on their personal experience.
It might be nice to hand out figures - assuming someone had them immediately to hand - but why would they? If they aren't officially released you'd never trust them anyway. And anyone who leaked them would find that a career-limiting move. They might even wake up one morning to a man standing on their doorstep, writ in hand...
And even then, would you have any idea on how to interpret the data? Assuming, for example, that the cost breakdown included xxx antenna modules for the SAR at £xxK each, and the cost breakdown included the cost of the design work (xxx hours at £xx per hour), the raw gold plated alumina substrates, etching the substrates (plus the tooling), machining the substrates, microwave semiconductors, wire-bonding operations to mount the components on the substrates, the test and QA, machining the module casing from aluminum billet, gold-plating the casing, assembling the module, doing a full temperature sweep RF test etc. etc. - unless you have experience in the area how do you know if it's expensive, cheap, or just right? The same goes for all the rest of it.
Of course, whatever you got would never be enough to satisfy a professional cynic - a mind has been made up and nothing can change it. Blah blah waste of money blah blah buy from America blah blah schools/hospitals/poor troops is going to be refrain even if you could prove the kit was half the price, twice as capable, was just what everyone wanted and provided a cure for cancer as a side benefit.
Do I actually give a shit though? Not really, this program has nothing to do with me in any way, I know that I'll end up paying just as much tax however much is wasted on it, I don't care what the ultimate outcome is, or anything else. I just get pissed off when the whole overpriced/buy American/waste of money thing comes around again and again from people who really don't have a clue, and can't even justify it based on past military experience and trying to sell a book.
Don't believe all the anti UK defence propaganda
Alex Hanff - Instead of just reading the first 2 paras of anons post, you need to read and understand the rest of the post. It's a very well written, informed post and goes someway to explain the current cost situation. How do I know? - I worked on some of the early prototypes for "SAR for UAV/UCAV" research and image exploitation concepts of operations.
I can assure you, looking to the USA isn't the low cost panacea for defence procurement that some would like you the believe. Just ask anyone looking at the cost of a "full spec" F-22 and overall USA defence spend ;-)
Wrong wrong and wrong again. Absolutely everything you just typed was rubbish. As for wikipedia it is blocked in my router. I am a social scientist and an academic, I just also happen to have a huge interest in politics and a true understanding of a democratic system -is- (which is clearly something you don't have.). The MoD is totally accountable. As for costs being a national security risk, again utter shite, since the majority of the costs for these toys falls under the category of intellectual property and NOT physical costs, there is no way to ascertain what the parts are from the costs, and even if there was, it would make no difference.
Anyone who wants to buy these drones can, if I wanted to buy one and had enough money I could, the same as movie stars buy tanks and military jets, it all just comes down to money. The aviation police probably wouldn't let me fly it, but they couldn't stop me buying it.
And there-in lies the rub, you can't scream National Security about a product if you are buying a product from a 3rd party (or multiple 3rd parties as in this case) since the national security has already been breached as people NOT under the control of UK law have intimate knowledge of our defense systems (such as these drones).
However, if we developed our own drones within the jurisdiction of the UK law and without the intervention or collaboration of non domestic sources, then National Security wouldn't be an issue would it?
You, along with 99% of the rest of the UK need to wake up and smell the damn coffee. The only reason you think the MoD are not answerable to the public is because you have been brainwashed into thinking they aren't, the same as most of the entire population has been brainwashed into an apathetic state of utter ignorance with regards to how a democratic system is -supposed- to run. Democracy is supposed to EMPOWER the people yet we as a nation have forgotten that, we have let the Lords and the Party Politicians blur our vision with a veil of fog blinding us from the basic principles of our democratic state for their own vested and material interests.
YOU are the perfect example of this, everything you said wreaks of the foul, noxious disease that has grown to epidemic proportions here in the UK. You are welcome to your opinion, but I would warn you that it is not your opinion, but merely the ignorance which is the inevitable side effect of the disease.
Politicians and public facilities will never be answerable to the people who control them if those people never even attempt to exert their control. So you go back to your 9-5, your hegemonic media, your tranquil bubble of ignorance. I will continue to see with open eyes, I will continue to fight for my rights, I will continue to educate the masses in an attempt to dissolve the fog that blinds you all and I will continue to call the government and all their minions to account for their actions. I will not disempower myself as you have, I am a free man, my thoughts are free, my mind is free and my heart is free. I refuse to allow apathy to steal my world.
Don't believe all the anti UK defence propaganda
I don't know why people keep claiming I think we should buy US drones, I never said any such thing. I would be just as much against that as I am against the current situation.
Firstly, I don't believe there is any value or indeed any need for these drones regardless of where they come from.
Secondly, my argument has been that if we are going to spend money on these things, they should be developed 100% in house from scratch.
Re: Wrong wrong and wrong again.
Thought I smelled an activist academic - the ranting and complete lack of clue about how things work (including security and democracy) gave the game away.
First, it was NOT rubbish, it was a simple, fact based explanation. That it doesn't fit a particular world view doesn't make it wrong.
Second, the Wiki reference was a joke/dig about the way, particularly with Wikipedia, that actual practical knowledge of a subject isn't any good for some people, instead the ignorant demand endless references and sources, otherwise it doesn't count. Bit tricky when there aren't any accessible references, and you usually can't cite yourself as your source...
As you say, MOD is accountable. To Parliament. Which is made up of MPs. Who are accountable to the electorate - this is how the representative democratic system works. This doesn't mean everyone gets all the data, because they don't need it, because they have their elected representative to do it for them.
Can anyone with money buy the hardware? No - because they CAN and DO stop you buying it. Some unsavory governments might buy equipment but it still has to be authorized, usually provided because they're allies even if it's only the politicans who believe it. Private individuals can't buy much above the small-arms level, assuming they have the right licenses. Sure, you can buy scrapped/decommissioned armour and aircraft, but only if it's demilitarized first, and even then you can't do much with it - and most countries won't even let you buy/own the stuff as there are laws against private ownership of military hardware.
Your National Security arguments are, simply put, wrong. For any cost breakdown to be any good, it has to have sufficient detail that it becomes potentially useful to a foreign intelligence service - how do you know if the costs are accurate if you don't know what they refer to? Plus it's commercially sensitive for both the customer and the supplier, neither side wants other companies or countries to know what things cost as it screws up the procurement process later on.
Your '3rd party' argument doesn't hold up either; only UK nationals, or those otherwise judged suitable to hold the required security clearance would have access to data on the unique parts of the system, and to the full performance details. The prime contractor is in the UK, with UK staff, some components are bought in but the primary sensor (the main feature of this system) is a UK designed and sourced item. That the actual drone is bought in doesn't matter, it's only a platform and doesn't really impact on what the system does i.e. the capability of the sensors.
The statements on democracy are barely worth a comment, but look like a classic narrow view from the window of an ivory tower. Both in design and in reality, representative democracy never has, was never intended, and never will operate in the way you seem to think it should - the people can't exert the degree of direct control you seem to want because it just wouldn't work, which is why they elect people they trust to do the job for them, and ultimately hold them accountable. However, there isn't really space, and this isn't really the forum to discuss the history, theory and operation of the democratic system of government.
Suffice it to say that I strongly resent being called ignorant when in all probability I may have more knowledge of both how the system should work, and how it actually does. Indeed, on the basis that I know for a fact some of the things that happen, I may actually have even more desire for elements of the system to be fixed. It's one thing to believe things are wrong, it another thing entirely to KNOW it from first hand experience.
Somehow though I doubt any of the above will have any impact. It's always impossible to convince those who KNOW that THEY are RIGHT, and EVERYONE ELSE is WRONG that they might not properly understand something. Because obviously, being on the outside looking in, and having no practical experience whatsoever, they CLEARLY know everything and we must ALL bow down to their superior knowledge, while they sit smugly by and do nothing to actually implement their brilliant idea of how the system should really work - funny how the real world is slightly more difficult than theory, isn't it?
Anyway, to the original article. Lewis is unnecessarily cynical - can't blame him though as it comes with the job, and criticism can be worthwhile. I believe that some of his facts were wrong. But it was actually a relatively balanced piece compared to some I've seen under his byline. Watchkeeper certainly doesn't look cheap, but it doesn't look stupidly expensive either, the capability is required, and anything has to be better than buying that American junk.
Further to Anons
I think anon has summed up the situation exactly, I would just like to add a further point taking the 20-25yrs life issue further. The 15m cost of the unit IF it is the all up contract price then it will include Integrated Logistic Support (ILS)costs. This is a feature of all modern military contracts and basically deals with support issues spares, repairs, documentation. The ILS aspects of a contract will in amost 100% of all cases double the contract cost, the Initial hardware purchase cost is probably about £8m per unit with the spares holding taking up another £6m and the support costs the rest. This also includes storage costs of components heavy pre-purchase of long lead items that are also fragile so break alot. The list of additional kit that is brought into these types of contract just to make sure the equipment really can last its lifetime is huge and there for every expensive.
Having spent my entire career in the defence industry...
I can confirm all of Anon's points.
The fact is that most of the people here ARE engineers, and many it would seem have put in time in defence. You Alex, are by your own admission not an engineer, and have demonstrated your willfull ignorance of many points.
* You dismissed a substantial list of the _mechanisms_ for cost, on the grounds that specific figures weren't available. Such figure vary by an order of magnitude depending on application, to give a "specifc" figure would be to mislead.
* You assert that cine the raw materials of the UAV would be less than (in your arbitary opinion) £100K a 15M pice tag is unreasonable. The raw materials of the PC on your desk cost mere pence. Turning a thimble off sand into a deep-sub-micron CPU is an expensive procedure.
* You requested that the cost of the UAV be broadly broken down, claiming that this would not divulge the specifics of the machine. However since you quibble a price of 1UAV @15M, we're fairly confident that You'll quibble AVIONICS@3M, CONTROL SURFACE ACTUATION MONITIOR@2K and probably "SMD RESISTOR @7p" By this stage the UAV would be discussed in great detail.
* Your sourcing of information as "movie stars buy tanks and military jets" again demonstrated that you hadn't researched your own argument, as explained only demilitarised equipment can be bought in this fashion.
Engineers have to debate far more rigourously than you have just to get a budget, and your conduct here has demonstrated _exactly_ why engineers and real sciences look down their noses at the humanities. Your reluctance to deffer to experience is offensive.
I can only conclude that you are either a troll or such an arogant speceimin that I could only term a "Cunt", and as you've freely insulted both the inteligence and integrity of those present here I consider that a fair term.
It is however understood amongst the engineering community that many Social scientists behave so obnoxiously due to dietry induced illness; brought on by the practice of only eating meat that you personally have buggered to death... so I'm sure we'll all forgive you in time.
Good to read anon's post and one or two other sensible ones, at least some folk know how reality works. Important too to emphasise MoD's recognition of reality, it's not platforms that matter it's what you put in/on them that's important and this is where the national R&D effort goes. The characterisitcs and capabilities of the sensors are seriously sensitive because the more you know about them the easier it is to avoid/defeat them.
I'd add that I suspect the contract value includes years of support, spares and possibly base maint after so many flying hours. Also a bit for initial introduction into service training, probably of the gunnery staff instructors at Larkhill. There could also be the issue of flight control software and UK safety critical standards with associated costs. After the Chinook saga I suspect MoD won't be taking cheap short-cuts on this one!
The big worry is only 54 birds, the USAF bought 130 Predators (there's another couple of hundred on order) but of the 130 they've lost 59. Given that Predators have long flights and landing is the big risk (so less landings per flight hour than short endurance birds), then Phoenix doesn't look too bad! Lets hope the Watchkeeper flight control software is top of the line, probably full automated landings - needed for unlight strips at night.
Ahhh the cost of stuff
The costings could be right/wrong, who cares, MoD are well known for budget over runs and failed projects anyway. Just try for a FOI after they are made.
As to the state of democracy in this country, Alex is right. Bunch of apathetic wankers in the main. Don't vote, don't get involved in local issues, don't even know your own neighbours.
Please, since when did the MoD ever do cheap(Chinook), it does expensive and poor almost by definition. The last successful (and I mean that in a commercial or operational sense) project must have been the jump jet.
Why are we not making more of these to sell, is it because no one with any sense would want them ? Our usual banana republic contacts (UAE) obviously are not keen as we can't seem to keep the pesky press away from the intricacies of all the back handers.
The only decent reason for not buying the yanks platform is R&D and knowledge transfer to blighty, but by that same token, its probably a good idea to stop trying to pretend to be a world power, at 1/3 of my salary, its starting to take the piss. Im sure if I was earning more I would pay less as a percentage, which takes me right back to my 1st comment, about apathetic apolitical wankers who don't vote.
I sincerely doubt that an entire third of your salary is going into defence funding. There a lot going to the NHS, Police, Council services, Benefits... As for being a world power, we are the sixth largest economy at the moment, wherebaouts should we draw the line?
As for selling watchkeeper on. Watchkeeper originated as a requirement issued by the MOD against which different suppliers tendered. BAE Air Systems (AFAIK) tried to assemble a tender, and it has to be taken as a victory for common sense that they didn't get it. (Following the eurofighter delays, MRA4 cockups, Upholder rip-off).
A quick strawpoll in the office indicates that most of the people here vote, although doubtless Alex would think we're voting for the "wrong" party. However BAE Have quite publicaly stated that they'd have to close several lancashire plants, with an employment cost of 20-30 thousand people if the government stopped buying their products. Now are NuLab REALLY going to drop that many unemployed into the northwest? That little bit of the UK electoral map that is forever red?
The REAL Question...
...is why the UK defence industry is so catastrophically late to the party with UAV tech that we have to buy a crappy 'platform' (that strongly resembles an RC glider I built when I was 14) from an nth rate 'state' like Israel?
Face it, we can't have proper, homegrown UAVs because a) we don't have the comms infrastructure to support them b) we don't have any entrepreneurial defence contractors or projects looking FORWARD and inventing new solutions to long-known problems c) we have an historically small and still shrinking defence budget.
It's not so much that BAE Systems et-al don't have the engineering skills and facilities to develop something like that. A lot of good talent passes through Air Systems before it get's offered better (or just reasonable) money. Sadly that division is primarily run by a coven of psychotic witches known as "Executive HR", who don't give a rat's arse about The Industry/Company/Country. Backed up by a cadre of mangers who stand less that a 50% chance of picking up an oxycet torch without burning through their palm. I've been out if there for a while now, the doctor tells me the voices will fade evenutally.
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