Over 22,000 pages of classified data related to six Scorpene-class submarines being built by French company DCNS in India have been leaked, The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The leaked documents give away the combat and performance capabilities of these submarines, including the frequencies used for gathering intelligence, the noise levels they make at different speeds and their diving depths, range and endurance designs.
India is currently building six Scorpene-class submarines under Project 75 in partnership with DCNS under a $3.5-billion deal signed in 2005. These subs with superior stealth features are being built at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders in Mumbai, and the first, INS Kalvari, is likely to be inducted later this year. The other five submarines are scheduled to be inducted by 2020.
In a statement, the defence ministry said the available information is being examined at naval headquarters and an analysis is being carried out by specialists.
Though the leaked documents have the potential to negate the operational usefulness of these submarines, especially if it is available to Pakistan and China, top sources in the navy claimed these documents are not the same as the ones with the Indian Navy for construction of these submarines.
“There would have been many versions of documents exchanged between DCNS and us. This could be an older version but it is still embarrassing. The embarrassment is more for France, but it should not have happened,” sources said.
According to The Australian, the leaked documents marked “Restricted Scorpene India” include 4,457 pages on the submarine’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 submarine’s communications system and 2,138 pages on its navigation systems. This data is not available in the public domain and gives away the detailed design of the submarines.
Navy sources said initial analysis shows that this data will not give away the signature of all the submarines, because each submarine even of the same project has a separate signature that takes years to record.
“From whatever we know so far, it does not hamper the exploitation of tactical and operational capabilities of the navy in any way,” a source said.
Sources also said that the leak of documents seems to be part of a corporate rivalry after DCNS won the Australian deal worth $40 billion for 12 submarines, beating its German and Japanese rivals.
In an earlier statement given to The Australian, DCNS tried to suggest that the documents could have been leaked from India. But the documents also include separate confidential DCNS files on plans to sell French frigates to Chile and the French sale of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship carrier to Russia, which have no link to India. So it is likely that they were taken from DCNS in France.
In a statement issued later on Wednesday, DCNS seemed to acknowledge the source of leak when it said: “As a serious matter pertaining to the Indian Scorpene program, French national authorities for defence security will formally investigate and determine the exact nature of the leaked documents.”
Indian officials said the question of invoking the indemnity clause with DCNS is being studied but it can only be pursued after the source of leak is confirmed. No decision on the matter has been taken so far, they said.
Cameron Stewart, associate editor of The Australian, who broke the story on the leaked documents, told The Indian Express that he is not aware if these documents have been passed to either China or Pakistan. The data on the Scorpene submarines, he said, was written in France for India in 2011 and is suspected to have been removed from France the same year by a former French navy officer who at that time was 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, Stewart said, 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.