To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, with reference to the Answer of 28 June 2016 to Question HL728 and pursuant to the Answer of 11 September 2017 to Question 8078, for what reasons the date forecast for Watchkeeper to achieve full operating capability has changed; and if he will make a statement.
Initial Operating Capability for Watchkeeper was met in August 2014 and it was then deployed on operations in Afghanistan. Watchkeeper is a first-of-type capability for Defence and therefore the programme has evolved as regulatory and technical requirements for both aircraft and pilots have been fully understood.
Two incidents involving Watchkeeper aircraft earlier this year also resulted in a temporary pause in flying which inevitably had an impact on the programme. Full operating capability is currently forecast to be achieved in 2018.