Thursday, 25 August 2016

Navy downplays Scorpene leak, MoD asks Paris for details

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Aug 16

Faced with a potentially disastrous information leak that could blunt the operational edge of six Scorpene conventional submarines that India is building under licence from French shipyard, DCNS, the Indian Navy is carefully downplaying concerns.

On Thursday, a day after a reputed Melbourne daily, The Australian, reported the leak of 22,400 pages of technical information about India’s Scorpene submarines from DCNS, New Delhi stated: “The documents that have been posted on the website by an Australian news agency have been examined and do not pose any security compromise as the vital parameters have been blacked out.”

The Australian has indeed redacted (blacked out) sections of the Scorpene documents that it deemed highly sensitive. However, the documents were made available to The Australian in full, without redaction. Whoever shared it with the newspaper remains in possession of reams of technical information about the Scorpene.

Admirals in New Delhi admit there is no way of knowing where that information has gone. The Australian noted that “the DCNS documents detail the most sensitive combat capabilities of India’s new $US3 bn ($3.9bn) submarine fleet and would provide an intelligence bonanza if obtained by India’s strategic rivals, such as Pakistan or China.”

New Delhi admits to this possibility only reluctantly, stating: “The Government of India, as a matter of abundant precaution, is also examining the impact if the information contained in the documents claimed to be available with the Australian sources is compromised.”

Business Standard learnt that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar passed orders on Wednesday evening to urgently pursue the matter with the French side. The defence ministry announced today: “The Indian Navy has taken up the matter with Director General of Armament of the French Government expressing concern over this incident and has requested the French Government to investigate this incident with urgency and share their findings with the Indian side.  The matter is being taken up with concerned foreign governments through diplomatic channels to verify the authenticity of the reports.”

Off-the-record, a senior Indian Navy official scoffs at The Australian’s claim of having accessed 22,400 pages of Scorpene data. “The newspaper’s webpage carries links to just 13 pages of documentation. How do we know they have actually seen 22,400 pages? As things stand today, it is only a claim”, he says.

Another well-informed navy officer avers that the documents leaked by The Australian do not tally with the Scorpene documentation DCNS provided to India. “Our analysis suggests the leaked documents relate to the Scorpenes in service with Malaysia and Chile. There is also data relating to the Mistral helicopter carrier vessel that Russia is buying. But the documents we hold are different”, he says.

If that is so, it remains unexplained why the leaked documents, which are available on The Australian’s website, bear a red stamp saying: “Restricted Scorpene India”.

Navy officials are also taking pains to argue --- without having seen all the leaked documents --- that the information put out consists only of broad technical specifications that are freely available in commercial documents. They argue that key submarine attributes like “audio signature”, which is unique to each vessel, remains secret. Furthermore, since the Scorpene weapons package, including torpedoes and surface attack missiles, have not yet been fitted, weaponry details could not have been leaked.

Even so, a wary Parrikar has tossed the ball into the hands of a committee. Said a ministry statement today: “The detailed assessment of potential impact is being undertaken by a high level committee constituted by the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Navy is taking all necessary steps to mitigate any probable security compromise.”

Given how vital the Scorpene is to the navy’s submarine capability, it is unsurprising the impact of the leak is being played down. To meet its operational needs, the navy assesses it requires 24-26 submarines. Currently, there are just 13 operational submarines, of which just 8-10 are functional at any given time. The six Scorpenes being built by Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) under Project 75 are, therefore, vital.

Equally vital is the long-delayed Project 75-I, which involves building another six submarines. Every major submarine builder, including Russia, Sweden, Germany and Japan is aspiring for this order, as is DCNS. This leak, however, coming on top of a four-year delay and major cost escalation in building the Scorpene, cannot but damage DCNS’ prospects in India.

Ironically, many are assessing that the document leak was not aimed at India, but at scuppering DCNS’ USD 38 billion contract to build the Shortfin Barracuda submarine for the Australian Navy, which it won in April. The French company said on Wednesday that it might be the victim of “economic warfare”.


Anonymous said...

leak... indian side... by... french personnel... ???...

Commander Bond said...

"Faced with a potentially disastrous information leak that could blunt the operational edge of six Scorpene conventional submarines that India is building under licence from French shipyard, DCNS, the Indian Navy is carefully downplaying concerns." - That information was commercial information not unique to the Scorpene and certainly not relevant to the Indian Scorpene as no information is to date complied due to subs still undergoing tests. Only after it has been in service can manuals and unique signatures etc can be available so why is it deliberately propagated as if it is vital when you being in the army should know the hogwash passed on as confidential is in fact only restricted info for potential buyers which even I can access if DCNS thought I was a genuine buyer!

Anonymous said...

The French are no longer in the race for P75I with this (or maybe even without it)
The interesting thing about the leak is we the public know,it , not just our potential adversaries.
But can someone clarify some things :

Look at Kilo, how much do,you think it is secret since China has it.
Then we want to buy S400, after China bought it. Ok ?
Type 209 submarine, Turkey operates it. Pakistan and Turkey are quite close, is it not ?
The situation is worse for F-16, Su-30s etc.

In above cases just that you and me do not see the docs in newspaper.
Our firm assumption should be all imported stuff is compromised or can be during war (take case of argentina's Exocet missiles)

Unknown said...

Frankly, IN and MoD are trying to search for a fig leaf.

Saying that critical information was redacted is useless. Who lay their eyes on the document before it was redacted? Who applied the black ink and when? The document ping ponged between multiple parties before it reached the press in Australia. Assuming that the redaction was done by the press, then the fully exposed document was changing hands - How many people saw it / copied it/ stored it / uploaded it on torrent/ analysed it / printed it and then used it for their chana masala cone? How many of those chaps have now approached ISI?

As for others that say that the information is commercially available and still more critical information like acoustic signatures and weapons information is safe - Who are they kidding? It is like saying "yes, 90% of the information is lost, but we still have 10%". Please tell me, just how much "commercial" information about INS Arihant would you be comfortable placing in the public domain?

The bottom line is that our depleted sub arm just got torpedoed. We have to assume 24000 pages have reduced the sub's capability by 30 to 40%. The future captain will have to work extra hard to ensure he can outfox the PLAN and PN, and work with the assumption PN/PLAN know much more about his boat than he does about theirs. - why hobble him with extra burden?

The only information in the public domain should be "This is submarine , it displaces tons, carries sailors and officers, and it is a happy boat"

The French should be asked to redesign all boats that are to be built, and effectively negate all the leaked info. The boat undergoing sea trials must be heavily modified during it first mid-life upgrade. We should ask if we can cancel the unbuild boats or completely replace them with designs that are no compromised. Australian Barracuda?

And - oh - anyone know the radar signature of the Rafale fighter when it is operating in combat mode? - just asking, incase it gets printed by the Dawn newspaper in Karachi.