A French contract to supply intelligence satellites to the United Arab Emirates could be cancelled, with the UAE claiming it's discovered backdoors in US-supplied components of the birds.
Defence News, which broke the story, claims that the $US930 million contract could be scrapped, according to high-level UAE sources, if the issue can't be resolved. That would be a blow for prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space, and payload maker Thales Alenia Space.
Defence News says the backdoors would “provide a back door to the highly secure data transmitted to the ground station”. An unnamed UAE source says the discovery of the components has been reported to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, deputy supreme commander of the UAE's armed forces.
Along with a ground station, the Pleiades-type satellites, known as Falcon Eye, are due for delivery 2018.
The original contract was sealed in July 2013. The two high-resolution observation satellites included operational support from France, along with training for 20 engineers.
Since the backdoor was discovered, delegates have been shuffling between Russia and Abu Dhabi, presumably to seek alternative sources if the contract is canned. However, Defence News also speculates that the questioning of the contract may be an attempt to improve Abu Dhabi's negotiating position for another contract, for Dassault Aviation Rafale fighters. ®