French built satellite bugged by the United States
US bug detected in UAE’s France-built spy satellite
Wed Jan 8, 2014 11:34AM GMT
French experts have announced that the US may be behind the recent discovery of “security compromising components” in two spy satellites sold by France to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), threatening the deal’s cancellation.
The development, reported Tuesday by France 24 news network, follows a report by a US-based military news web site on Sunday, which sites UAE officials as pointing to the discovery of US-manufactured elements in the French-made “Falcon Eye” military surveillance satellites, due to be delivered to the Persian Gulf state in 2018.
The elements are believed to be “backdoor” systems, allowing data to be covertly intercepted.
“If this issue is not resolved, the UAE is willing to scrap the whole deal,” an anonymous UAE source was quoted as saying in US-based Defense News web site on January 5.
The source was further sited as saying that the security flaw was discovered in September 2013 and that the UAE had asked France to change those components.
The report, meanwhile, emphasizes that losing the contract, signed in July 2013, would pose a serious setback for France, arguing that the deal “represents the biggest supply of French military hardware to the UAE since 2007, when France overtook its main rival the USA, who until then had been the UAE’s biggest military supplier.”
According to the report, neither Astrium (part of Airbus) nor Thales, the French companies supplying the spy satellites, were available to comment when contacted by France 24.
The “revelations,” the report adds, have raised a number of questions, as some experts see the work of competitor countries, including the US, China and Russia, “jealous of France’s lucrative deal.”
According to Alexandre Vatravers, associate researcher at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), the notion of finding American components in part of a sophisticated French-made product hardly raises any eyebrows.
“Globalisation of high technology means it is virtually impossible to produce something like this without a certain amount of US know-how,” Vatravers added.
“These are observation satellites,” said Alain Charret, a former senior officer of the French Air Force and a specialist in electronic warfare. “I really don’t see what interest the Americans would have in installing backdoor systems when they can get all this information from their own satellites.”
“The only advantage for the Americans would be to know what the UAE is actually interested in watching,” he said, adding that this type of information would be readily shared between the two allies anyway.