A deal between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) deal to buy two intelligence satellites from France worth $930 million is in trouble after the US NSA tried to put backdoors into the technology.
Two high-resolution Pleiades-type Falcon Eye military observation satellites contained two specific US-supplied components that provide a back door to the highly secure data transmitted to the ground station.
The UAE has asked the French to come up with some components which do not automatically tell the US about its planes and they might even move to Russian and Chinese firms to take over the project. Only the Americans think that Chinese and Russians do anything like spy on people.
The UAE is willing to scrap the whole deal. Apparently it is hugely miffed that it bought French and found itself spied on by the Americans. In fact the French only won the contract because the US State Department had been such an arse about how the system could be used.
The UAE is a big fan of Russian technology normally and it used the GLONASS space-based navigation system fitted as a redundancy feature on a Western European weapon system.
In France, defence experts cannot work out why the French were using the US technology in the first place.
According to Defensenews, France operates the Pleiades spy satellite in what is viewed as a critical piece of the nation's sovereignty. Given that core competence, it seemed strange that France would use US technology, although there is an agreement between Paris and Washington over transfer of capabilities, analysts said.
The deal is problematic because Israel was likely to want to limit the ability of the system to work. The French satellites sold to the UAE, a very high optical resolution and encrypted code could be used to guide a cruise missile to a target in Iran.