The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed a contract in Abu Dhabi with France for the delivery of two optical reconnaissance satellites. The Falcon Eye satellite contract is valued at about 700 million Euros or about $900 million.
The decision had come down between France and the United States after several other countries has been eliminated earlier. The United States was led by Lockheed Martin.
The contract will be executed by Astrium, a subsidiary of of EADS, and Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between French Thales and Italian Finmeccanica. The two high-resolution Pléiades-class satellites will be delivered in 2017 and 2018.
The UAE contract is a much needed win for France, whose defense orders fell by over 25 percent in 2012. It may also help boost cooperation between France in the UAE on defense matters.
In addition to building the satellites and related control station, France will also launch the satellites into orbit. France will also assist with image processing software, transmission and encryption systems and intelligence interpretation and analysis training.
Although optical reconnaissance and surveillance satellites suffer from some drawbacks such as susceptibility to weather conditions, they've become much more affordable in recent years.
It is now possible for countries and even private companies to get their own highly detailed images that were impossible to obtain several decades ago except for a few intelligence services.