Thales and WB Electronics have signed an agreement to build a Polish tactical unmanned air vehicle named Gryf (Grifon), based on the former’s experience with the British Army’s Watchkeeper 450, and on the technology used on the UAV.
One of the key operating programmes in the modernization of the Polish armed forces is the delivery of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). After three years of technical dialogue the Polish Armed Forces Inspectorate took the decision to build a mid-range tactical UAS with the involvement of Polish industry. At the same time, the Polish Ministry of Defence announced that the tactical-class UAS will be obtained under a G-to-G contract with a foreign supplier. The reason for such a decision was the inability to build such a system in Poland.
This situation is changed by the terms of the agreement between WB Electronics and Thales signed on 8th July 2015. The agreement covers the construction of the Gryf Polish tactical class UAS based on the experience and the technology used in the Watchkeeper 450 system. The cooperation foresees the construction of the Gryf UAS in Polish factories and in line with MOD requirements. Furthermore, under the terms of the agreement, critical technology (such as data links, mission computer, software, some optoelectronic heads, cryptographic elements and integration with C4ISR) will be developed by Polish engineers. This will allow for full sovereign control over the systems on offer to the Polish army as well as encryption codes, ensuring the security of the fundamental state interests.
Warsaw wants to acquire 12 Gryf systems, each with four aircraft and a ground control station. The system will be used for division-level imagery intelligence, will be armed with rockets and enter service from 2017. It also wants to purchase four Zefir (Zephyr)-class systems comprising three aircraft and a GCS each for operational-level use, to be acquired via a government-to-government deal with a foreign contractor. Deliveries would commence in 2019, and the aircraft will be armed with missiles and rockets.
Today, Thales and WB Electronics have signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” to foster closer ties and working partnerships in support of Poland’s investment in Unmanned Aircraft Systems and related technologies. With the support of the United Kingdom government, we look forward to working together and building an enduring and viable partnership in the development of Watchkeeper for the Polish market. Watchkeeper is a next generation, mature system, currently used by the British Armed forces, which has proven itself under operating conditions in Afghanistan. It benefits from a set of unique features, like air safety certification and a de-icing mechanism, that makes it an ideal match for the Polish armed forces. We are ready to work with Polish industry to guarantee the full sovereignty of Watchkeeper to Poland.”- said Victor Chavez, CEO of Thales in the UK.
Polish UAS financed by NCBiR
Polish industry has extensive expertise in building unmanned aircraft. Many Polish solutions, such as the FlyEye offered by the WB Group, are currently being used by the Polish Armed Forces. The confirmation of Polish competence in the field of unmanned aircraft is the creation of the sector programme (IINNOSBZ) for unmanned platforms by the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR). 17 entities associated with the Polish Aeronautical Technology Platform for Unmanned Aerial Systems requested this. The value of the IINNOSBZ programme is estimated at approx. 800 million PLN.
“The creation of a sector programme on the technological development of unmanned platforms by NCBiR and a signed agreement with Thales provides us with a unique opportunity to develop a Polish medium range UAS. Thanks to financing from NCBiR, on the basis of solutions that we find in the UAS Watchkeeper, we can, using Polish forces, in Polish enterprises and using critical technologies developed by Polish engineers, build the Gryf class unmanned aircraft, which we will be able to fully control and maybe export to other countries in the future”, said Adam Bartosiewicz, Vice President of WB Electronics.
Taking advantage of the NCBiR financing, Polish industry may – based on the Watchkeeper – develop tactical UAV technology both for civil and military applications. Thales has invited WB Electronics to take full advantage of Thales’ experience in establishing sovereign control of the development of its latest generation UAS, entering a programme worth close to GBP 1 billion at the point of maturity.
About WB Electronics S.A. – the leader of WB Group, which is the biggest Polish private producer and supplier of military electronics. WB Group employs over 800 people, of which approx. 50% work on research and development. WB Group includes the following entities: WB Electronics S.A., Radmor S.A., Flytronic Sp. z o.o., Arex Sp. z o.o. and MindMade Sp z o.o. WB Group is mainly known for the manufacture of innovative, reliable and battle-proven FONET communication systems and F@stNet family radio stations commonly used by artillery unit command and fire control systems ZZKO TOPAZ, modern FlyEye UAV systems, weaponry control systems and solutions for construction of SmartGrid systems. WB Group is a serious exporter of its own systems. The Group made consolidated revenues in 2014 of over PLN 200m.
About Thales – Thales is a global technology leader for the Aerospace, Transport, Defence and Security markets. With 61,000 employees in 56 countries, Thales reported sales of €13 billion in 2014. With over 20,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design and deploy equipment, systems and services to meet the most complex security requirements. Its unique international footprint allows it to work closely with its customers all over the world.
Source: Press Release