The world’s lack of trust in the United States of America (USA) after the whole NSA scandal may cost France hundreds of millions of dollars.
It appears that UAE’s purchase of two intelligence satellites from France, worth almost 3.4 billion dirhams (US $930 million), is in jeopardy after “security compromising components” were discovered.
A high-level source in the Emirati government said that US-supplied components were found which provided backdoor access to the highly secure Pleiades-type Falcon Eye military observation satellites.
Instead of pointing towards the stars like others satellites, those used for intelligence look earthwards for covert information gathering.
“The discovery was reported to the deputy supreme commander’s office [Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed] in September,” the source said. “We have requested the French to change these components and also consulted with the Russian and Chinese firms.”
After Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the extent of NSA’s spying activity, it is hardly surprising that American components, once synonymous with the ultimate in security, now send alarm bells ringing.
The source said that the discovery prompted an increase in talks between the UAE and Russia. A number of high-level delegations are said to have shuttled between Moscow and Abu Dhabi.
“If this issue is not resolved, the UAE is willing to scrap the whole deal,” he said.
The agreement to purchase the multi-million dollar satellites was signed on July 22 by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. A ground station was to established and delivery was set for 2018.
The equipment would be provided by prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space and payload-maker Thales Alenia Space, while 20 engineers would be trained to use the new technology.
However, The US’ tendency to be Mr Nosey Parker has thrown a spanner in the works and the Emirati government seems unwilling to trust any equipment that allows backdoor access to Washington. Hardly surprising since the US has been caught spying on some of its closes allies red-handed.
Of course, all of this translates to France taking a hit at a time when the country is considered the sick man of the eurozone economy.