The decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to buy a pair of intelligence satellites from France may not go through due to new information about alleged “security compromising components” from the United States, Defense News reported
A high-level UAE source objected to U.S.-supplied components of high-resolution Pleiades-type Falcon Eye military satellites.
The French-made satellites from Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space contain U.S.-supplied parts that could provide a “back door” that would enable the covert interception of data, according to the UAE.
Emirates officials want the components removed, and the source warned that it could kill the entire deal if the issue was not resolved to his government’s satisfaction.
The discovery prompted the UAE to open talks with Russian and Chinese companies, emirates officials said.
Losing the $930 million satellite deal, signed July 22 by Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed, deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, would be a serious setback for France.
The satellite purchase would be the largest French provision of defense hardware to the emirates since 2007, when France surpassed the United States as the top supplier of the UAE military, France24 reported
Some French experts expressed skepticism that the United States would attempt to use the Falcon Eye satellites to spy on the UAE.
“I really don’t see what interest the Americans would have in installing back-door systems when they can get all this information from their own satellites,” said Alain Charret, an electronic warfare specialist and former senior officer in the French Air Force.
Charret suspects that a disgruntled competitor, most likely in the U.S., may have planted the rumor “in an attempt to sabotage the deal.”
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