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 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/our-french-submarine-builder-in-massive-leak-scandal/news-story/3fe0d25b7733873c44aaa0a4d42db39e.
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.