Democratic Alliance (Cape Town)

19 January 2014

South Africa: It's Time for the Truth About Defence Intelligence's Bungled R1 Billion+ Spy Satellite

press release

Photo: NASA
Satellite (file photo).

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, needs to come clean about the seemingly bungled development of a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite, at the cost of more than R1 billion, by Defence Intelligence.

On 19 May 2006 a contract, with a value of R1.2 billion, was signed with a Russian company called NPO Mashinostroyenia, to develop a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite for Defence Intelligence.

The project was referred to as "Project Flute" and later as "Project Consolidated Flute".

We do not have all the facts about the development of the satellite by Defence Intelligence. However, following a four-year-long probe this is what we do know:

Project Name:

"Project Flute"

(Note: The project is also referred to as "Consolidated Project Flute".)

Project Description:

* Development of a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite for Defence Intelligence.

* A radar imaging reconnaissance satellite has the advantage of being able to produce images at night and through cloud.

* A radar imaging reconnaissance satellite could be used by Defence Intelligence for intelligence gathering and battlefield reconnaissance.

Project Cost:

R1.2 billion+

Contracting Company:

NPO Mashinostroyenia

Contract Date:

19 May 2006

The main driver behind the project to develop the satellite is believed to have been General "Mojo" Motau who, at the time, was the chief of Defence Intelligence.

The contract to develop the Kondor-E satellite was frozen for a period, sometime before 2008, by the Department of Defence, causing NPO Mashinostroyenia to threaten legal action, and apparently delaying the launch of the SumbandilaSat, produced by South Africa.

"Project Flute" is believed to have been frozen, in part, because a major flaw was discovered in the contract, something Defence Intelligence had failed to recognize.

Defence Intelligence would have no control over the satellite or be allowed to operate it from South Africa.

What this meant is that Defence Intelligence would be entirely dependent on NPO Mashinostroyenia.

Defence Intelligence would have to request images from NPO Mashinostroyenia, who would deliver them at additional cost and with a significant time delay.

The initial cost of "Project Flute" was R 1.2 billion, but the final cost of the project is unknown.

However, between 2006/07 and 2013/14, Defence Intelligence will have channelled R2.87 billion, through the secret Special Defence Account, some of which is being spent on the "development of a strategic information collection capability".

That something went horribly wrong with the project is evidenced by the fact that:

The Auditor-General conducted an investigation into the project, which was referred to as a "sensitive project in DI (Defence Intelligence) with potential serious financial implications for the Department of Defence"; and

A special report was produced on the project by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI).

The current status of the project is unknown. However, it appears to be on-going.

A Kondor radar imaging reconnaissance satellite, developed by NPO Mashinostroyenia, was reportedly first launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 27 July 2013, probably for the Russian military.

A second launch of a Kondor radar imaging satellite, developed by NPO Mashinostroyenia, was reportedly being planned for an "undisclosed foreign customer" in 2013.

We cannot be sure, but it would seem on balance that, after eight years, and after spending more than R1 billion, the Kondor E satellite, developed by NPO Mashinostroyenia, has not yet been launched for Defence Intelligence.

It is time, after more than eight years and R 1 billion, for government to provide some straight answers about "Project Flute".

We need to know:

Whether there is an on-going Defence Intelligence project to develop a radar imaging reconnaissance satellite;

How the Defence Intelligence project to develop a radar imaging reconnaissance satellite was bungled; and

Who, following the investigation by the report by the Auditor-General, will be held accountable for the bungle.

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 the cost of more than R1 billion, over which they would have no control, and which has probably never been launched.

I will therefore:

Request Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to make a statement about the apparently bungled R1 billion development of a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite by the Defence Intelligence in Parliament;

Request the Inspector General for Intelligence, Advocate Faith Radebe, to investigate; and

Submit requests, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000), for access to the report of the Auditor-General and the special report of the JSCI on "Project Flute".

David Maynier, Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2014 Democratic Alliance. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.

InFocus

Missing S Africa Satellite Costs R1.2bn

Satellite (file photo).

Mystery surrounds a deal struck eight years ago between South Africa and a Russian company for a satellite dubbed "Project Flute". Read more »