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.
Top stories this week
- Armscor wants criminal prosecution of its website hackers
- RFA Gold Rover arrives in Simon’s Town
- Ex Red Lion embarks on armed humanitarian mission
- Armscor website up again - with exceptions
- Ex Red Lion “going well,” task group commander says
- Armscor website hacked
- Ex Red Lion - testing the Navy on land and at sea
- SA Navy completes successful live firing exercise
- Navy exercise Red Lion is underway
- SA Navy praised for International Fleet Review and Ibsamar participation
Williams takes the lead in Formula One with Thales cyber security solutions
by Thales, 22 July 2016
Thales will deliver cyber security solutions for real-time global telemetry transmission to Williams Martini Racing and Williams Advanced Engineering.
First batch of Denel vehicles shipped to UAE client
by Denel Corporate, 20 July 2016
The RG31 is a Mobile Mortar Platform that is regarded for its 4x4 capabilities, mobility and the protection it offers against anti-tank mines and explosive devices.
Saab to supply KleinPort port management system to Curacao Ports Authority
by Saab, 20 July 2016
Saab will install the latest version of its KleinPort system for CPA's harbour management system.