Andrew Neil furious at £1.4bn drone shambles as they don’t work in bad weather | UK | News

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has furiously torn into the Government after it was found that a fleet of British drones struggles to operate in poor weather conditions.

The Andrew Neil Show host condemned the Ministry of Defence over a “defence procurement shambles”, claiming the UK’s Watchkeeper drones – worth £5million each – were given “out-of-control modifications”.

Officially known as the Thales Watchkeeper WK450, the drones are advanced military aircraft that were first developed in 2010 as a means to provide ground troops with “enhanced situational awareness” to reduce loss of life.

But a recent report found that models procured for the British Army were so heavily modified that they became too heavy to operate to their full capability.

Mr Neil joined voices condemning the latest procurement drive, saying that taxpayers must ultimately pick up the costs.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Neil told his 1.2 million followers that the Watchkeeper fleet was plagued with “over-specification, gold-plating, out-of-control modifications”.

He condemned the allegedly dysfunctional drones as “yet another all-too-typical tale of Britain’s defence procurement shambles” as he baulked at the recent reports that it is unclear whether any aircraft from the £1.4billion project is in operation.

The report found that eight of the drones have been written off at a cost of £40 million, which Mr Neil said would be fronted by taxpayers.

He added: “Taxpayer picks up the massive bills to pay for their incompetence. Nobody ever held to account.”

The MoD has defended the Watchkeeper drones, with a spokesperson saying they play a “crucial protective role” for British troops deployed overseas.

They said: “Watchkeeper is a highly sophisticated drone which has accumulated more than 4,000 hours of flying, providing vital information for soldiers on the ground.

“It has been successfully deployed across the world, including Afghanistan, where it played a crucial protective role for British troops.”

The drones have come under fire before and have long been known for being solely fit for “visual meteorological conditions” – meaning clear weather.

During a training exercise in 2022, poor weather cost one £30million drone to crash into the sea off the coast of Cyprus as it flew from RAF Akrotiri, with the MoD told to “get a grip” at the time.

Express.co.uk has contacted the MoD for comment.

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