Secret data on Indian Navy’s Scorpene-class submarines leaked

  • Rezaul H Laskar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 24, 2016 19:20 IST
Reports say sensitive information on the India-made, French-designed submarine has been leaked. (REUTERS FILE)

Documents detailing the secret combat capabilities of Scorpene-class submarines that French shipbuilder DCNS has designed for the Indian Navy have been leaked, and could prove to a bonanza for India’s rivals such as Pakistan, according to an Australian media report on Tuesday.

The leak, running to 22,400 pages, will trigger alarm at the highest level in countries that operate a variant of the Scorpene, or have ordered the submarine, including Malaysia, Chile and Brazil, The Australian newspaper reported.

India has ordered six Scorpene-class submarines in a deal worth $3 billion. The first of the submarines built at the Mazagon Docks in Mumbai began sea trials in May.

“Marked ‘Restricted Scorpene India’, the DCNS documents ­detail the most sensitive combat capabilities of India’s new $US3 bn…submarine fleet and would provide an ­intelligence bonanza if obtained by India’s strategic rivals, such as Pakistan or China,” the report said.

“The leak will spark grave concern in Australia and especially in the US, where senior navy officials have privately expressed fears about the security of top-secret data entrusted to France,” it added.

DCNS also won a bid in April to design Australia’s new $50 billion submarine fleet, and the report said the leak could affect the security of top-secret data on the submarines. DCNS, which is two-thirds owned by the French government, will design 12 new submarines for Australia.

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“Any stealth advantage for the (Australian) navy’s new submarines would be gravely compromised if data on its planned combat and performance capabilities was leaked in the same manner as the data from the ­Scorpene,” the report said.

The leaked DCNS documents detail key secret stealth capabilities of the Indian submarines, including sensitive and highly classified information such as

* what frequencies the submarines gather intelligence at, what levels of noise they make at various speeds, as well as their diving depths, range and endurance

* where on the submarine the crew can speak safely to avoid ­detection by the enemy

* magnetic, electromagnetic and infra-red data, and the specifications of the submarine’s torpedo launch system and combat system

* the speed and conditions needed for using the periscope, noise specifications of the propeller and radiated noise levels that occur when the submarine surfaces.

What The Fact?! - #ScorpeneLeak

The Australian reported it had seen 4,457 pages on the Scorpene’s underwater sensors, 4,209 pages on its above-water sensors, 4,301 pages on its combat management system, 493 pages on its torpedo launch system and specifications, 6,841 pages on the communications system and 2,138 on its navigation systems.

The newspaper redacted sensitive information from some documents it posted on its website.

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The report said DCNS had sought to ­reassure Australians that the leak of data on the Indian submarine would not happen with its proposed submarine for Australia. “The company also implied — but did not say directly — that the leak might have occurred at India’s end, rather than from France,” it said.

“Multiple and independent controls exist within DCNS to prevent unauthorised access to data and all data movements are encrypted and recorded. In the case of India, where a DCNS design is built by a local company, DCNS is the provider and not the controller of technical data,” DCNS was quoted as saying by the daily.

“In the case of Australia, and unlike India, DCNS is both the provider and in-country controller of technical data for the full chain of transmission and usage over the life of the submarines.”

However, The Australian learnt that the data on the Scorpene was written in France for India in 2011 and is suspected of being removed from France in that same year by a former French Navy officer who was at that time a DCNS subcontractor. The data is then believed to have been taken to a company in Southeast Asia, possibly to assist in a commercial venture for a ­regional navy.

“It was subsequently passed by a third party to a second company in the region before being sent on a data disk by regular mail to a company in Australia. It is unclear how widely the data has been shared in Asia or whether it has been obtained by foreign ­intelligence agencies,” the report said.

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