Friday, July 26, 2013

U.A.E. buys French spy satellites in $913M deal

The United Arab Emirates, a key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf confrontation with Iran, has bought two military surveillance satellites from France that will give the region's Arab monarchies the capability of spying on the Islamic Republic.

Under the $913.2 million Falcon Eye contract, the Emirates, a federation of seven gulf sheikhdoms, will receive a brace of Helios high-resolution satellites to be built by Astrium, the space division of the European aerospace defense giant European Aeronautics Defense and Space Co. (EADS) and Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales of France and Finmeccanica of Italy.

Under an annex agreement, French military personnel will aid Emirati technicians in interpreting images and share information delivered by the satellites, said officials who accompanied French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for the contract signing Monday.

The Emirates spearhead efforts by the Gulf Cooperation Council -- the other members are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain -- to acquire a military surveillance satellite network to bolster an early warning system they've been talking about for a decade.

But, largely due to dynastic squabbles and mistrust within the GCC alliance established at the height of the 1980-88 war Iran-Iraq War, this and other GCC military aims remain unfulfilled.

However, growing tensions with Iran could spur them to set aside their differences.

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