The United Arab Emirates and France are expected to finalize the Falcon Eye spy satellites deal within the coming weeks while looking into the purchase of 40 Dassault Rafale fighter jets.
A UAE source close to the negotiations told Defense News that the discussions on the deal were completed and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected soon in the UAE.
“For the Falcon Eye deal to proceed there is a need for high level of technology transfer, and for that we have negotiated the possible purchase of 40 Rafale jets with the overhaul of the Mirage 2000 fleet,” the source said.
The contract for the UAE to purchase two high resolution Pleiades military observation satellites has faced resistance from Abu Dhabi. Under the US $930 million deal — signed July 22 last year by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, and Le Drian — delivery was set for 2018, along with a ground station.
The deal is the first major contract between France and a Gulf Cooperation Council country concerning sensitive intelligence satellite technology.
The satellites are provided by prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space and payload-maker Thales Alenia Space, and as part of the deal, 20 engineers will be trained to use the new equipment.
The first signs of a problem appeared in January when a UAE source said the satellites contained two specific US-supplied components that provide a back door to the highly secure data transmitted to the ground station, meaning all data could be transmitted to a third, unauthorized party.
Since the announcement of the discovery, Le Drian has been shuttling between Paris and Abu Dhabi to seal the deal.