India on Thursday launched its second French-designed Scorpene class diesel-electric attack submarine, Khanderi, at Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, exorcising the ghost of a data leak scandal that threatened to derail the project in August 2016.
Khanderi is one of the six Scorpene submarines being constructed in the country with technology transfer from French firm DCNS under a Rs 23,562-crore programme called Project 75.
In what was seen as a major setback for the project, a leaked cache of 22,400 documents in 2016 detailed key secret stealth capabilities of the submarines, including the frequencies at which they gather intelligence, their diving depths, range and endurance, and specifications of their torpedo launch and combat systems.
Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma said the data leak was a closed chapter. “The data was from pre-2008 when the boat wasn’t even on the drawing board. The project has evolved significantly in all aspects and there’s no problem.”
The Scorpene is expected to become the main conventional submarine of the Indian fleet and replace the ageing Russian Kilo class and German HDW vessels that are almost three decades old.
Commodore C Uday Bhaskar (retd), strategic affairs expert and director, Society for Policy Studies, said a submarine acquires its acoustic signature only after it becomes fully operational. “Suggesting that the leak compromised submarine safety is misplaced. The programme is on track,” Bhaskar said.
Minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre and Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba were present when the Khanderi was floated out. The boat derives its name from a Russian Foxtrot class submarine the Navy retired in 1989. It is likely to be commissioned into the Navy by year-end after extensive trials.
Kalvari, the first Scorpene-class submarine to be built in India, is expected to be commissioned into the Navy in the coming months. All the six submarines are expected to join the Indian fleet over the next three years. Sharma said the third boat would also be launched this year.
The Scorpene project was delayed by five years due to issues related to transfer of technology. At present, the Navy operates 13 conventional submarines.