Will data leak on Scorpene submarines torpedo Indo-French ties?

Indian government orders report from Navy

Business & Politics

News - Biz@India

August 25, 2016

/ By / New Delhi



Scorpene submarines

Scorpene submarines

As sensitive data regarding submarines being built for its navy floated around the globe freely, India is assessing the damage.

India on Wednesday woke up to leak of documents related to Scorpene submarines it is building with French cooperation after the leading global daily, The Australian reported the secret combat capability of six warships.

Assessing Damage

A statement issued by India’s Defence ministry said: “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,” it added. Meanwhile Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has sought a report on the data leak.

According to The Australian, French defense company DCNS which has designed the submarines said that the leak might come from India, rather than from France.

“The first step is to identify if it relates to us,” Parrikar told reporters here, referring to the documents that purportedly reveal details on the sub’s underwater and above water sensors, as also combat management, torpedo launch, navigation and communications systems.

“The Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba has been asked to analyse what exactly has been leaked,” the minister said, adding his first assessment was that it was an act of hacking and not a 100-per cent leak.

 Huge Leaks, major implications

About 22,000 pages of secret data related to the six Scorpene-class submarines being made by the French company DCNS in India was leaked, “The Australian” newspaper reported.

Based out of Paris DCNS is a French industrial group specialised in naval defence and energy and has been in business close to four centuries now.

The leak also raised questions in Australia, which signed a big-budget deal in April with DCNS for 12 Shortfin Barracuda submarines for $50 billion. However Australian Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne asserted the leak “has no bearing” on the Australian deal.

Besides India it has triggered alarm among other countries such as including Malaysia, Spain, Chile and Brazil who have ordered variants of Scorpene submarines from the French shipbuilder.

Setback for India

As a result of the leak Indian Navy has suffered huge setbacks. The leaked data gives away the entire secret combat and performance capabilities of these submarines. Also it will completely neutralise their operational advantage if China and Pakistan get access to the same.

Several defence observers have pointed out that the leaks “represent a significant compromise at a time when

Will it affect Indo-French defence ties?

How far the leaks will affect the future course of Indo-French defence ties is the moot question?

If the secret data was indeed leaked from France, this is bound to strain India’s defence relationship with France. India is expected to sign a deal for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft with France shortly, and that could be under a cloud following this revelation. Currently India is building six Scorpene-class submarines, named Project 75, in partnership with DCNS under a $3.5-billion deal signed in 2005.

One of the costliest projects under the Make in India programme, these submarines are being built at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai. The 66-metre submarine can dive up to a depth of 300 metres to elude enemy detection and is currently undergoing sea trials, including weapon testing.

The trials are likely to be completed by the year-end, paving the way for its induction into the navy early next year. The remaining submarines are likely to be delivered to the navy by 2020. However, Indian navy was supposed to induct its first Scorpene submarine in 2012. However, the project was delayed due to problems relating to the transfer of technology.  In 2009, the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) came down heavily on the government for giving undue favours to DCNS while awarding the submarine deal in 2005.

To counter expansion of the Chinese fleet, India is exploring the possibility of collaborating with a foreign vendor to build six more next-generation submarines. Now it is to be seen who will bag this contract?

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