South Africa has a top-secret spy satellite, which the government is trying to cover up following an admission of its existence in parliament this past week.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, Secretary for Defence Sam Gulube revealed the existence of the “military satellite” when addressing parliament’s portfolio committee on defence.
Gulube mentioned the satellite as one of the department’s items of “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”, but added that the satellite project had been revised and was now on track to succeed.
After the satellite’s existence was disclosed, however, both the Department of State Security and Department of Defence refused to acknowledge as much.
“The project and details thereof are classified,” said Defence Force spokesman Sphiwe Dlamini.
According to The Sunday Times, the satellite’s cost could increase from R200 million to R1.4 billion – due to the fact that the satellite’s launch has been postponed until later in the year (2014).
The project was first called Project Flute and then Project Consolidated Flute, according to the newspaper.
In January 2014 The Sunday Times reported that the whereabouts of the R1.2 billion spy satellite, commissioned by South Africa from Russian company NPO Mashinostroyenia, where unknown.
The newspaper said that the “Kondor-E satellite” was reportedly a type frequently used for spying, capable of collecting radar images – at night through cloud cover – of objects as small as cars.
At the time, Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier labelled Project Flute a secret R1-billion bungle by SA defence intelligence, saying that it appears SA has spent money financing a Russian company to build a satellite we will have no control over and won’t be able to operate from SA.