The massive leak of data relating to the $3-billion French ‘Scorpene’ submarine project being built in India could make the government re-think the number of these submarines it wants to build at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai in collaboration with French company DCNS. The leak comes at a time when the French were eyeing a R64,000-crore order for six next-generation submarines in India.
With 30% indigenous components on board, the ‘Made in India’ submarine is part of an ongoing project for the construction of six Scorpene class submarines — the first one is undergoing rigorous trials and tests, both in harbour and at sea, while the second one is on the assembly line. The submarines being made at MDL on transfer of technology from DCNS are designed to operate in all theatres including the Tropics.
Known as Project 75, in 2005 it was awarded to DCNS to build six Franco-Spanish Scorpene-class diesel attack submarines (with an option to build six more) at the MDL.
The defence ministry said it would investigate the extent of the leak and if it is established that it severely compromises the secret combat capabilities of the Scorpenes, the government is likely to face heat at home.
Due to the leakage, while the Scorpene programme which is already running late could be stalled; many fear that several international projects in the pipeline could get delayed. “In 2014, the MoD had said that the first submarine will join service in September 2016. However, under such circumstances the whole plan changes,” a senior Naval officer pointed out.
According to agency reports, sensitive documents detailing the technical and stealth capabilities of India’s Scoprene submarines designed by French shipbuilder DCNS have been leaked, with defence minister Manohar Parrikar seeking a report from the Navy chief on the matter.
“I have asked the Navy chief to study the entire issue about what has been leaked, what is there about us and to what extent. It came to my knowledge at about 12 am. What I understand is there is a hacking. So we will find out all this,” defence minister Parrikar told reporters in New Delhi.
Parrikar said he does not suspect the leak to be 100% since a lot of final integration lies with India. While the minister said a clear picture will emerge in a couple of days, the Indian Navy in a statement said, “It appears that the source of leak is from overseas and not in India.”