France Sells UAE Spy Satellites

Written by | Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

France has sold lately the United Arab Emirates two military surveillance satellites giving a technological boost to the oil-rich gulf nation, member of the powerful regional Arabian bloc, Gulf Cooperation Council.
These two-high resolution satellites will cost the UAE nearly one billion USD, according to some intelligence sources. They will be provided by Astrium, the space division of the European aerospace defense giant European Aeronautics Defense and Space Co. and Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales of France and Finmeccanica of Italy.
The French military personnel will train Emirati technicians in reading satellite images and data analyzing. This is not the first deal signed between France and the UAE in this highly sensitive field. In 2007, the two countries sealed a multimillion-dollar contract to develop communications satellites with Astrium and Thales Alenia Space.
The Y1A, the first satellite in a series, was launched in April 2011 from the European Space Center in French Guiana. It was followed by the Y1B launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. These two satellites are designed to provide commercial communications across the Middle East, Africa, Southwest Asia and Europe.
They are controlled and managed by a team of UAE engineers based in Yahsat control station in Al Falah, Abu Dhabi. Yahsat pins high hopes for building and acquiring satellite technology tailored to the region’s needs and security challenges. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, a state-owned corporation which spearheads the UAE government efforts to develop a home-grown defense industry to ward off growing threats from neighboring Iran, which is developing a contentious nuclear program. This program continues to fuel tension and showdown between Western powers and Teheran suspected of developing its capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. An accusation which Iran denies. Yet, despite UN sanctions, Iran refuses to halt its nuclear enrichment program, in violation of Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), leaving the West and Iran in a deadlocked explosive situation. But this stand-off with heightened regional tensions might end in military confrontation. A fear consisting haunting the region.

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