According to a recent report on spacewatchme, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister, visits Paris today (27 June 2016) to participate in the third Saudi-French Joint Committee. The Deputy Crown Prince will also meet with French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The meetings of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his French hosts will cover a range of issues, including defense cooperation. For several years, Paris and Riyadh have been negotiating a possible satellite reconnaissance deal where a joint venture between Airbus Defense and Space and Thales Alenia Space are bidding to supply Saudi Arabia with anywhere between two to eight high-resolution imaging satellites.
The systems on offer are thought to be a variant of the EADS Astrium (now Airbus) Pléiades earth observation satellite. This satellite type is the basis for the Falcon Eye satellites being built by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space for the United Arab Emirates. U.S. satellite manufacturing company Orbital ATK is also believed to be bidding for the Saudi satellite reconnaissance deal. It should be reminded that a delegation of high-ranking Saudi official recently visited in the USA.
This is undoubtedly a critical deal for Israel. Last year, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of 34 Sunni countries. If and when Saudi Arabia will ascertain proper surveillances capabilities from space, it will not only use it for its benefits but will be able to share its intelligence products with Turkey, Egypt, and other countries in the coalition.