Where is South Africa’s secret spy satellite?
Written by Staff Writer, Tuesday, 21 January 2014
The Department of Defence reportedly entered into a contract with Russian company, NPO Mashinostroyenia, for the development of a Kondor-E reconnaissance satellite in 2006.
The project was revealed by the South African Sunday Times at the weekend and drew immediate reaction from David Maynier, shadow defence and military veterans minister, who has been investigating the saga of the spy satellite.
“Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula needs to come clean about the seemingly bungled development of the radar imaging reconnaissance satellite.”
The project was first referred to as project Flute and later renamed Project Consolidated Flute.
READ MORESA leads satellite game in Africa
Nanosatellite readies for blast-off
“We do not have all the facts about the satellite and its development under the auspices of Defence Intelligence but the main driver of the project is believed to have been now retired Lieutenant General ‘Mojo’ Motau, at that time Chief of Defence Intelligence.
“The contract to develop the Kondor-E was frozen for a period, sometime before 2008 by the Department of Defence, causing NPO Mashinostroyenia to threaten legal action. This apparently also delayed the launch of SumbandilaSat, produced by South Africa.
“Project Flute is believed to have been frozen, in part, because a flaw was discovered in the contract, something Defence Intelligence failed to recognise,” he said adding the flaw was Defence Intelligence would be “entirely dependent” on the Russian company.
“Images would have to be requested from them at additional cost and with a significant time delay. Defence Intelligence would have no control over the satellite or be allowed to operate it from South Africa.”
Scrutiny of Department of Defence budgets between 2006/07 and 2013/14 shows Defence Intelligence will have channelled R2.87 billion through the secret Special Defence Account, some of which is going to “development of a strategic information collection capability”.
According to Maynier the Kondor-E radar imaging satellite could be used by Defence Intelligence for intelligence gathering and battlefield surveillance. It can produce images 24/7 and in overcast weather conditions.
Motau is currently chairman of Armscor, having taken the Defence Ministry to court in pursuit of his reinstatement after he was dismissed by Mapisa-Nqakula last year. This was the second time he had challenged a Defence Minister and come out the winner, retaining his appointment as the head of the acquisition agency.
Cape Town daily Die Burger reported Department of State Security spokesman Brian Dube “had no comment on the matter” while Department of Defence head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini said the satellite project was “classified”.
“In the end we need to know how it is [that] Defence Intelligence entered into a contract to finance a Russian company to develop a radar imaging reconnaissance satellite at a cost of over R1 billion, over which they would have no control and which has probably never been launched,” Maynier said.
- Minister at Parliament defence committees’ strategic planning session
- New VIP jet and SAAF airlift not on our agenda - Armscor
- Properly constituted Defence Standing Committee must deal with Defence Review
- Defence Standing Committee set to elect co-chairmen
- Military aircraft acquisitions – multi-mission must be the motivation
- Department of Military Veterans annual report will be late
- Defence Review gathering dust in Parliament
- Mapisa-Nqakula on New York Presidential charter flight
- Africa’s west coast is next Navy anti-piracy deployment
- Denel is Defence Review ready for command and control
Airbus Defence and Space boasts outstanding young scientists
by AIRBUS Defence & Space, 22 October 2014
Andreas Hofmann from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg won the prize for the best bachelor's thesis.
Saab selected by Airports Authority of India to deploy A-SMGCS at five airports
by Saab, 20 October 2014
The company will deploy its Advanced-Surface Movement Guidance & Control Systems at five airports in India.
DAFF research, patrol vessel operations under new management for next 12 months
by Nautic Africa, 13 October 2014
Due to supply chain regulations, SAMSA's Special Marine Projects Division will take over from Nautic SA at the end of October.
#Parabot - Africa's largest super-hero robot joins the rhino fight
by Paramount Group, 13 October 2014
Paramount Group and the Ichikowitz Family Foundation's super-hero robot raises awareness of the role of the defence industry in fighting poaching.
Opening of new Mega Aero Training Academy (MATA) practical training centre
by Safomar Aviation, 13 October 2014
The practical training centre is based at OR Tambo International Airport.
Saab awarded contract for civil marine traffic services system in Hong Kong
by Saab, 10 October 2014
The defence and security company was awarded the contract to renew the existing Hong Kong vessel traffic services system.