Scorpene subs now good only for junking: Thank you DCNS!

The Indian Navy’s fleet of the French Scorpene submarine — the first of which, Kalvari, has entered service, is now completely compromized. The most secret data about the performance attributes and technologies incorporated in the Scorpene are now common knowledge, and the details in some 22,000 pages of this project has been “leaked” from the French company DCNS’ facility in France. The gist of these documents is published in the Aussie paper, ‘The Australian’ and is accessible at

The restricted data, per the Australian news story, reveals information in the following broad categories the newspaper has, fortunately, not retailed:

• The stealth capabilities of the six new Indian Scorpene submarines

• The frequencies at which the subs gather intelligence

• The levels of noise the subs make at various speeds

• Diving depths, range and endurance

• Magnetic, electromagnetic and infra-red data

• Specifications of the submarine’s torpedo launch system and the combat system

• Speed and conditions needed for using the periscope

• Propeller’s noise specifications

• Radiated noise levels when the submarine surfaces

Assuming the DCNS data was stolen from DCNS computers by cyber thieves or by a staffer with eye on the main chance, with the express purpose of derailing DCNS’ contract with Canberra to build six Sorpenes for the Australian Navy, the Indian Navy is a collateral hit — its prospective sea-denial capability a lot of showpiece rubble, its submarines good for nothing when, not if, the China and Pakistan buy the entire stock of documents as they will. Not sure, at this late date, that DCNS can do anything structurally to change the stealth or cavitation parameters, for instance, and if they can, at whose cost? The disclosures about the diving depths, weapons, and sensor specifications are really damaging. Worse, what can or will the Indian Navy now do? Look at the categories and the comprehensive info about the Scorpene, what option’s left other than to junk the nearly $22 billion worth of French submarines?

France has always been distrusted by the US as being unable to safeguard its military secrets. One reason why Washington was relieved when General de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO in June 1966.

This blog has been full of posts retailing my suspicions on various counts about French military hardware in the context of the impending Rafale acquisition decision, and particularly with regard to DCNS’ bid for the Project 75i submarine. Will the Modi regime now go ahead with the Rafale aircraft buy considering its secrets, assuming there are any, may be spirited away from the Dassault vaults and made public as the Scorpene info was from DCNS? And, more worrying still, will Parrikar in order to please Modi, instead of blackballing DCNS for its lax attitude to secret data, shortlist it for the Project 75i?

Have always argued that the only secrets about military hardware India can be sure of is about weapons systems it has fully made itself — from design to delivery. Reason why Tejas, Arihant, Agni missiles are such force multipliers — but little else in the Indian military inventory is as the rest of the stuff is all procured from foreign countries, who will happily reveal their secrets if it serves their national interest. In this respect, recall that during the 1982 Falklands War, France shared with Britain the operating frequencies of the Exocet anti-ship missile it had sold to Argentina. Only Russia has been above board in this respect.

This DCNS leak is a god-sent opportunity for the Indian govt, MOD, and military services to correct their imported armaments-oriented attitude, and to begin investing fully in only indigenous weaponry. If even after this, the Modi-Parrikar duo persists with its tilt favouring Western foreign suppliers, then what’s there to do except await the inevitable — an India fast declining in status and standing.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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10 Responses to Scorpene subs now good only for junking: Thank you DCNS!

  1. If India wants to be self-reliant in Submarine design then India should buy Sweden’s Kockums lock stock and barrel !!!!

  2. KsytriaKhalsa says:

    Yaar, they will say war unlikely anyway so why scrap & lose important ally?

    Chalta hai to challne de na

  3. Instead of Buying Scorpene, India should have co-developed S-80 with Spain’s Navantia.Spain is not a blood Sucking Parasite which wants to keep India dependent on itself for Submarines for 1000 years to come.

    Spain’s S-80 project had a bleak future right from the begining.If India had agreed to co-develop it with Spain and buy 6-10 pieces then spain would have agreed to share tech-know how and know-Why with India more than Blood Sucking French and Blood Sucking Russians.

  4. &^%$#@! says:

    Mr. Karnad, the French conduct though alarming is not new. As you will recall, the Germans handed over classified specifications of the Indian HDW subs. to the then apartheid South African government, the US has regularly shared with Pakistan their experiences and information gained by interactions and joint exercises held with Indian forces in addition to certain intelligence information regarding Indian weapons. Currently, since the US content in the Indian combat arsenal is limited to the sub-standard P-8I’s whose capabilities are almost similar if not identical to the Pakistani P-3 Poseidon’s, there’s nothing much to share on that front. However, this is certain to drastically increase when and not if the US stooge Modi gets drawn even deeper into the US net, given the Pakistani penetration in the US “Deep State”. It is only the Russians who have refrained from these activities, since the level of collaboration/interaction has been very deep. This is a relationship that the US stooge Modi seems hell bent in destroying with a wrecking ball. I am not a pro or anti any country, but have merely stated the facts.

  5. &^%$#@! says:

    It is odd that news of the DCNS leak has only just broken, and the Indian Government is busy giving assurances on complex technical issues which will take many months if not years to resolve/rectify, and freely dispensing “get out of jail free” cards to DCNS. All this despite the fact that even from the preliminary information available, the subject matter in the leak is largely India-specific.



    (Please replace all instances of “DOT” with “.”)

    “”I understand there has been a case of hacking,” said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. “We will find out what has happened. Navy sources said they are confident that the leak took place “outside India”, that the documents appear to show different configurations than what was finalized for India, and stressed that “the damage does not seem to be substantial” even as analysts suggested that’s not correct.”



    (Please replace all instances of “DOT” with “.”)

    “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”.”

  6. andy says:

    This is very worrying to say the least. French military kit has always been overpriced and they sure know how to make clients pay through their noses for seemingly “cutting edge” technology as the $2.3plus billion(India could have purchased 30 plus SU30MKI for the same amount) upgrade of the M2K clearly shows (upgrade without a new engine) as also the the exorbitantly priced Rafale.The Scorpene deal itself is behind schedule because some very critical parts had not been included in the original deal(thanks to the MOD Babu’s who were probably in the fisheries Dept before being called upon to negotiate military equipment) as also French perfidy.

    That Paris is susceptible to pressure was clear when it welched on the deal to supply Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. The first Mistral vessel is currently sitting in the French port of St Nazaire but France doesn’t have the balls to let it sail out to Russian waters. In December 2015 a 400-member Russian crew left after spending six months on the ship after Paris postponed the handover indefinitely. Russia now plans to construct its own helicopter carriers after extracting a huge cash penalty from France, but that could take several years.

    The Mistral betrayal should alert Indians to how interlinked western countries are when it comes to policy matters. That France is ready to consign thousands of its defence industry workers to the unemployment heap just to please the Americans should scare the living daylights out of anyone planning to buy French weaponry.

    Sure, once upon a time France used to be a reliable supplier. The Mirage-2000, for instance, has served India well for over 30 years and after an upgrade(although very expensive) the aircraft is good for another 15 years. But that deal was struck when Paris was pursuing an independent foreign policy. Today, it has moved back into NATO and is solidly behind the US in all its foreign misadventures.

    If France can show Moscow the finger, then do you really think they care a rat’s tail about India?

    The only point of having submarines is they are undetectable ,but with this leak from the French makes the Scorpenes susceptible to detection by the very forces it needs to hide from ,so what’s the point in deploying them?

    Russians are said to be totally paranoid about secret info about their military kits and rightly so,one has never heard anything like this Vis a Vis Russian armament. They even make India use the SU30 radars in training mode during joint exrcercises with the US, lest the Americans become aware of their true capacity.For India the best way forward should be to have a manufacturing ecosystem for Russian spares so that at least 80% of these rugged systems are available to the Indian armed forces at any given time and to shelve any future French procurements unless GOI wants to degrade capabilities of the Indian armed forces.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Andy: Well said. BTW, it is true that France has now replaced the UK as the Sancho Panza to the US Don Quixote, with the UK relegated to the role of Rocinante (Don Quixote’s worn out horse). Modi is doing his utmost to enlist India to play the role of Dapple (Sancho Panza’s donkey).

  7. andy says:

    While Russia is a reliable weapons supplier and can be trusted to never dangle the threat of sanctions, especially during a crisis, the supply of spares can sometimes be maddening. In fact, the problem is worrying the defence establishment to such an extent that the Defence Ministry called a meeting of Indian private sector companies. The meeting was held to address the problem of non-availability of spares, and was attended by senior officers from the three defence services among others.Don’t know what happened after that.

    While a number of Russian-supplied platforms, including the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, have been impacted by the trickle of spare parts, it is not known to what extent the navy is affected. However, going by the relatively smooth sailing experienced by INS Vikramaditya, the Indian Navy seems to be doing fine.

    One of the bottlenecks is at Rosoboronexport, the cartel or middleman through which Russian defence companies export their wares. The solution could be to allow Indian companies to allow production of spares via technology transfers bypassing Rosoboronexport.

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