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Watchkeeper 450 drone made by Thales. Crown Copyright 2010

Thales is a French-headquartered multinational, ranked as the world's 10th biggest weapons producer in 2016. [1] It is part-owned by the French government.

It builds radars, sonars and electronic surveillance satellites, tactical communication systems and combat management systems, drones, helicopter avionics, armoured vehicles, mortar systems and missiles.

Notably, Thales made the brand of surface-to-air missiles (Starstreak) controversially deployed around the London Olympic Games site in 2012. [2]

It also makes the infamous Watchkeeper drones, which were recently revealed to have cost the British taxpayer £1 billion pounds over the past 12 years. These aircraft are maintained by a UK-based joint venture called UAS Tactical Systems Ltd (U-TacS) with Israel's Elbit Systems, (which designed the original Hermes 450 drone that the Watchkeeper was based on). [3]

Revolving door appointments

Thales has recruited a number of retired British ministers, politicians and former high-ranking military brass onto both its board and its executive team.

  • James Arbuthnot, former Conservative MP on the board of Thales since 201
  • General Timothy Granville-Chapman -on the advisory board, was previously former vice-chief of the defence staff
  • Lord Charles Powell, member of the advisory board circa 2015
  • Craig Stevenson - government affairs director
  • Ann Taylor - former Labour defence minister joined Thales as a consultant adviser in 2010
  • Roger Wheeler - former chief of the general staff, appointed as a non-executive director in 2009

Recent MOD contracts

In March 2018 UK defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced the MOD had signed a contract to spend almost £4million with Thales and General Dynamics Land Systems-UK to deliver a vehicle-mounted acoustic shot detection system, named the Acusonic sensor, which can sense and report the direction of incoming enemy fire.[4]


  1. SIPRI
  2. Guardian
  3. Gareth Corfield, [ Watchkeeper drones cost taxpayers £1bn And were used on combat ops for just two days], 29 Nov 2017, accessed 26 March 2018
  4. Deal Worth £3.7 Million Announced For Army's Armoured Vehicles, Forces Network, 15 March 2018, accessed 26 March 2018