Despite massive Scorpène-class submarine leak, Parrikar tries to keep a brave face

France, Brazil, Poland, Malaysia, Chilé, Australia and India — to name a handful — have reason to be concerned.

And that reason isn't that they've been lumped together in this rag-tag grouping, but the news that a 22,400-page secret document about the Scorpène-class submarines (manufactured by French shipbuilders DCNS) has gone almost-public thanks to an 'Edward Snowden-sized leak'.

The Australian points out that a variant of this submarine — six of which the Indian Navy has purchased at a cost of $3.45 billion — is part of the navies of Malaysia, Chilé and Brazil (as of 2018). While Australia is a prospective DCNS client — with the manufacturer winning a bid, in April this year, over Germany and Japan to design 12 new submarines for Canberra, India is already a client and so naturally, concerned. More pertinently, the leaked documents refer to the very model of submarine that India is purchasing. So far, India is keeping a brave face about all of this.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar spoke to ANI about this leak and said:

The Indian Navy put out a succinct statement on l'affaire Scorpène, saying:

A case of suspected leak of documents related to Scorpene submarines has been reported by a foreign media house.
The available information is being examined at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) and an analysis is being carried out by the concerned specialists.
It appears that the source of leak is from overseas and not in India.

Parrikar was quoted by IANS as saying, "The first step is to identify if it relates to us... I've told the Navy Chief to find out all the details. Maybe, in a couple of days I'll be able share with you."

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

So what is known about this 22,400 page document? 

PTI reports that leaked document covers a variety of details including the secret stealth capabilities of six new Indian submarines — including but not restricted to the frequencies at which they gather intelligence at, what noise they make at various speeds and their diving depths, range and endurance. Further, the document also highlights safe zones on board the submarine where crew members can safely speak without fear of detection by the enemy. There are also reams and reams of data on the vessel's underwater sensors (4,457), its above-water sensors (4,209), its combat management system (4,301), its navigation systems (2,138), its communications system (6,841) and 493 pages on the Scorpène-class submarine's torpedo launch system.

In other words, a veritable 'all-you-need-to-know' (emphasis on the 'all' part) on the submarines, for which India has already forked over a hefty wad of cash, is floating around.

Damage assessment

Even as the Indian Navy issued a statement saying that the source of the leak was 'from overseas' and that the Ministry of Defence is examining the data, Times Now quoted 'navy sources' as saying that "the data is dated", that the damage caused by this leak is "not substantial" and that the leak is actually the "result of corporate wars".

None of these soundbites appear to be particularly comforting in light of the following concerns:

1) How does it matter where the leaks originated? The fact is that the document could easily turn up on a PDF near you. In fact, DCNS was quoted in an IANS report as saying, "Multiple and independent controls exist within DCNS to prevent unauthorised access to data and all data movements are encrypted and recorded... In the case of India, where a DCNS design is built by a local company (the Scorpène-class submarines will be built in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam), DCNS is the provider and not the controller of technical data." (emphasis added) Spoiler alert: We could be in for a protracted blame-game.
2) Dated or not, the information is not likely to stray too far from relevant details about the Scorpène-class submarines. It's hardly likely to be about a Soviet-era submarine.
3) As for the damage being 'not substantial', nearly 9,000 pages on sensors and almost 7,000 pages on communications systems does not sound 'not substantial'. In fact, it sounds like a very substantial chunk of information has been put out there.
4) Just as in point number one, how does it matter if the leak was a result of 'corporate wars' or a disagreement over a housing society tea party? In fact, corporate espionage could be as dangerous as military espionage, given the expansion of global military-industrial complexes.

From reverse engineering knock-off submarines for profit to finding ways to sabotage the Scorpène-class submarines, there's no way of telling just how this data will be used, but for now, it's probably safe to assume that China and Pakistan will not be too upset about all these developments.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 24, 2016 14:43:43 IST

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