On August 24, an Australian newspaper ‘The Australian’ published documents containing details of six Scorpene submarines which are being built in India by French firm DCNS. These six submarines are part of Indian Navy’s Project-75 programme, of which one submarine INS Kalvari was put to test earlier this year in the Mazagaon docks in Mumbai, where they are being built.
The 22,400-paged document revealed restricted information on the Scorpene submarines, which are diesel-electric attack submarines. The documents specified the secret combat abilities of the vehicles, including range, frequency at which they gather intelligence, noise they radiate, endurance, diving depths and other such technical details. It also illustrated the details of the sonar system that is employed by the submarine to gather ntelligence underwater.
While DCNS claims that the leak originated from India, the newspaper said that the documents had been transferred from DCNS in 2011 by a former sub-contractor to a Southeast Asian company, from where it was moved to another branch of a second Southeast Asian company.
Speaking immediately after the leak was made public on Wednesday, Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar said that the documents were posted with vital parameters being blackened out, thereby ensuring no compromise on the security. However, he has asserted that the Navy, in particular, will be prepared for a ‘worse-case scenario’, whatever that may be.
Meanwhile, retired Navy officials and experts do not seem too concerned about the leak either. Speaking to Sushant Singh of The Indian Express, retired Captain J.S. Malik, who served for 32 years with including the office of Director of Submarine Operations said, “Most of this data is generic and belongs to Naval Staff Qualitative Requirements (NSQR) provided by the Navy to the French company, and ‘binding data’ for the product. It does not pertain to any specific submarine, and has limited usage for the adversary.”
While all seems rosy at the Indian Navy end, things do not appear as easy for DCNS. The French company has been brought on board to design a variant of the same Scorpene for Australia, Malaysia, Chile and Brazil by their respective navies. This leak is now expected to trigger concern and doubts regarding the security of the proposed projects to be handled by the company, especially in Australia and U.S.
It must be noted that the leaked documents contained data that is several years outdated, owing to the fact that it was compiled in 2011. However, while making these observations, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull raised the matter that ‘any leak of classified information is a concern.’
The $3-billion-worth-Scorpene submarines are expected to form the submarine-arm for the Indian Navy over the next two decades, with INS Kalvari almost ready for induction into the fleet.