India's Scorpene Submarines Compromised

24 Aug 2016 | Written by Supriya Kaur; Edited by Gaurav
India's Security Nightmare

A massive leak of sensitive data on the capabilities of India's Scorpene class submarines gravely compromised the Indian Navy.

The classified information running into 22000 pages was accessed by the Australian media. The data belongs to DCNS, the French company building the submarines.

Sea Trials of the Scorpenes started in May 2016 and the fleet of six has cost India a whooping $3.5 billion.

In context: India's Security Nightmare

2005-2016DCNS-India Scorpene Deal

DCNS is a French global leader in defence naval systems; it built the world's first armoured frigate in 1858 and one of the first submarines in 1899.

In 2005, India signed a $3.5 billion deal with DCNS for six Scorpene submarines and in 2011, an indigenisation contract was signed for building them at Mazgaon Dock, Mumbai.

They were originally to be commissioned in 2015.

DetailsIndian Navy Submarines

Currently, 14 submarines are commissioned by the Indian Navy. At no given point are all of them operational.

A majority of Indian submarines have completed three quarters of their operational lives.

The commissioning of the Scorpene submarines was the first major effort to rebuild the dwindling fleet.

Once commissioned, the Scorpene submarines are expected to become the Indian Navy's mainstay.

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The Scorpene Submarine

Key FeaturesThe Scorpene Submarine

The Scorpenes's stealth and impregnability outclasses several others.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to detect the Scorpene submarines underwater by enemy fleets.

They can attack with precision via tube launched anti-ship missiles or torpedoes, underwater or above, and can carry weapons on board and reload easily.

They can also undertake multiple missions including area surveillance, intelligence gathering, mine laying and anti-submarine warfare.

Kalvari: The Tiger Shark

India's first submarine, the Kalvari, was commissioned on December 1967 and decommissioned in May 1996. As per tradition, Navy ships and submarines are brought alive after decommissioning. The first of the six Scorpene submarines will be commissioned as INS Kalvari later this year.

ExtentIntelligence Failure

The 22,400 page dossier marked 'Restricted Scorpene India' is the operating manual of the Scorpene submarine.

The ultra classified data contains in exceptional detail, the submarine's underwater and above-water sensors, torpedo launch system, navigation and combat management systems.

Experts believe the data could be an 'intelligence landmine' if obtained by Pakistan and China, India's strategic rivals.

DetailsWhat We Know So Far

According to Union Defence Minister, Mr. Parrikar, there had been a hacking but it was unclear whether it happened at India's end.

The Australian media, however, indicated that the data was accessed in France in 2011 by a former Navy officer subcontracted by the DCNS.

The Scorpene data was supposedly passed between firms in Southeast Asia before being accessed by an Australian company.

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Other SideShipbuilder DCNS on the Defensive

The French shipbuilder, DCNS, suggested that the leak happened on the Indian side as it was merely "the provider and not the controller of technical data".

DCNS assured the Australian Government that tighter safeguards will be in place while designing Australia's submarine fleet.

This massive breach of security is likely to rankle other countries like Malaysia, Chile and Brazil which also deploy Scorpenes.

24 Aug 2016India's Scorpene Submarines Compromised

25 Aug 2016MoD plays down Scorpene leak

The Defence ministry has ordered a probe into the leak of documents and data on India's Scorpene submarine systems from DCNS by an Australian media source.

The Indian Navy in a statement clarified that "It appears that the source of leak is from overseas and not in India."

The Ministry of Defence tried to downplay the leak saying that "the documents are different."

26 Aug 2016More Scorpene details made Public

Nine more pages of technical data about the French Scorpene submarine designed by DCNS for India were made public by The Australian.

The latest documents include the technical manual related to the Scorpene's underwater warfare sub-system and the operating instruction manual related to the Combat Management System (CMS).

In all there are over 22,400 leaked documents relating to the submarine.

27 Aug 2016Scorpene Whistleblower to surrender Data disk to Australian Government

According to 'The Australian' newspaper, thousands of pages containing data regarding the Scorpene's stealth and warfare capabilities will reach the Australian Government by Monday.

According to reports, the whistleblower wants Australia to know that DCNS (its future submarine partner) has already lost secret data on India's submarines.

The whistleblower is doing this in the hopes that Australia's $50 billion submarine project stays guarded.

The Australian on the Whistleblower

"He has not broken any law and the authorities know who he is. He plans to surrender the disk to the government on Monday," said the newspaper.

30 Aug 2016Temporary Injunction on further publication of Scorpene data

On an application submitted by DCNS, the French defence firm, a temporary stay was granted by the Australian Court on further publication of the Scorpene submarine data.

Leaked data was being published by 'The Australian', a newspaper.

According to DCNS's lawyer, publication of the data was harmful to the firm as also its customers with regards to widespread disclosure of confidential information.

02 Sep 2016Paper asked to hand over all Scorpene data to DCNS

An Australian court has ordered the newspaper The Australian to hand over all the leaked data and documentation on the Scorpene submarine to its manufacturer DCNS.

The court had already ordered a halt on any further publication of the Scorpene data, and made the newspaper remove previously published material.

French defence manufacturer DCNS welcomed the court's ruling.

17 Sep 2016Scorpene data leak happened in France, not India

Speaking at the launch of guided missile destroyer Mormugao on Saturday, Navy Chief Admiral Lanba said that preliminary investigations show the leak took place at DCNS office in France, not India.

A high level committee is inquiring into the Scorpene Leak on the Indian side.

Similarly, DCNS and the French government have launched an inquiry which will decide whether any mitigation measures are required.