Scorpene — Leaked DCNS Documents & ‘The Australian’ news report

What’s simply astounding about GOI’s (Parrikar’s) and the Indian Navy’s reaction to this massive leak at the DCNS end is their (1) complacent attitude (compare this to the alarm generated in Australia, which is buying another version of the Scorpene), (2) attempt to minimize the prospective damage to national security and the complete compromizing of the Scorpene submarine platform, and (3) straining to clear DCNS and France of any responsibility and hence legal and monetary LIABILITY for an event that normally should immediately imperil bilateral relations and, at the very least, result in the Indian govt demanding full financial restitution in terms of return of all monies paid so far in furtherance of the Scorpene contract, a massive deterrent penalty imposed on the French Company, and stopping of all Scorpene deliveries from the Mazgaon Dockyard Ltd (MDL). The first unit, Kalavari, and the next one coming up 4 years later than scheduled produced under DCNS aegis are now virtual junks. And an agreement with Paris that it will pay for whatever remedies may be available to make the two Scorpenes at all serviceable as fighting platforms (rather than as pleasure boats that, perhaps, can cart tourists seeking full submersible experience off the Mumbai shore). Indeed, the sea trials of the first of Kalavari, has to be terminated, and DCNS asked to take it back, not deliver the second one, unless these two submarines are to, whatever extent, modified to exacting professional standards.

Recall in this respect that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi threatened to shut down bilateral relations with France in 1987 because of the infamous Coomar Narain case — a French defence attache was caught with official documents purloined by Narain, a “wheeler dealer” working for a wealthy Indian, Maneklal, as “economic intelligence”, precipitating an emergency visit by French President Francois Mitterand. (Refer If that relatively slight offence produced such a huge reaction from Delhi, shouldn’t an unimaginably more significant event by the French supplier that pretty much finishes off the country’s submarine capability have proportionately graver consequences? Such as, at a minimum, an instant termination of contacts and military and every other contract? But here we have a maun Modi and a Parrikar who doesn’t seem to even understand the gravity of the situation.

Also bear in mind when perusing the published sample documents accompanying the story that these are in the “Restricted” category. Even so the Australian paper has felt compelled to redact the more sensitive data in them. There must be frightfully more sensitive documents in the trove of 22,400 off documents with much higher classification status now available to anyone willing to pay (Pakistan, China).

Reproduced below are ‘The Australian’ story about the DCNS’ India Scorpene submarine, along with the URLs for the sample of three documents published in this newspaper of Aug 24, 2016
The AUSTRALIAN, Aug 24, 2016
Our French submarine builder in massive leak scandal
By Cameron Stewart

The French company that won the bid to design Australia’s new $50 billion
submarine fleet has suffered a massive leak of secret documents, raising fears
about the future security of top-secret data on the navy’s future fleet.
The stunning leak, which runs to 22,400 pages and has been seen by The
Australian, details the entire secret combat capability of the six Scorpene-class
submarines that French shipbuilder DCNS has designed for the Indian Navy.
A variant of the same French-designed Scorpene is also used by the navies of
Malaysia, Chile and, from 2018, Brazil, so news of the Edward Snowden-sized
leak — revealed today — will trigger alarm at the highest level in these countries.
Marked “Restricted Scorpene India”, the DCNS documents detail the most
sensitive combat capabilities of India’s new $US3 bn ($3.9bn) submarine fleet and
would provide an intelligence bonanza if obtained by India’s strategic rivals, such
as Pakistan or China.

The leak will spark grave concern in Australia and especially in the US where
senior navy officials have privately expressed fears about the security of top-secret
data entrusted to France.

In April DCNS, which is two-thirds owned by the French government, won the
hotly contested bid over Germany and Japan to design 12 new submarines for
Australia. Its proposed submarine for Australia — the yet-to-be-built Shortfin
Australia. Its proposed submarine for Australia — the yet-to-be-built Shortfin
Barracuda — was chosen ahead of its rivals because it was considered to be the
quietest in the water, making it perfectly suited to intelligence-gathering
operations against China and others in the region.

Any stealth advantage for the navy’s new submarines would be gravely
compromised if data on its planned combat and performance capabilities was
leaked in the same manner as the data from the Scorpene. The leaked DCNS data
details the secret stealth capabilities of the six new Indian submarines, including
what frequencies they gather intelligence at, what levels of noise they make at
various speeds and their diving depths, range and endurance — all sensitive
information that is highly classified. The data tells the submarine crew where on
the boat they can speak safely to avoid detection by the enemy. It also discloses
magnetic, electromagnetic and infra-red data as well as the specifications of the
submarine’s torpedo launch system and the combat system.

It details the speed and conditions needed for using the periscope, the noise
specifications of the propeller and the radiated noise levels that occur when the
submarine surfaces.

The data seen by The Australian includes 4457 pages on the submarine’s
underwater sensors, 4209 pages on its above-water sensors, 4301 pages on its
combat management system, 493 pages on its torpedo launch system and
specifications, 6841 pages on the sub’s communications system and 2138 on its
navigation systems.

The Australian has chosen to redact sensitive information from the documents.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was important to note the submarine
DCNS was building for India was a completely different model to the one it will
build for Australia and the leaked information was a few years out of date.
Nevertheless, any leak of classified information was a concern.
“We have the highest security protections on all of our defence information,
whether it is in partnership with other countries or entirely within Australia,” he
told the Seven Network today.

“But clearly, it is a reminder that, particularly in this digital world, cyber security
is of critical importance.” Influential senator Nick Xenon said he would pursue the security breach when parliament returns next week. Senator Xenophon, who leads a bloc of three senators, said Australia needed serious explanations from DCNS, the federal government and the Defence Department about any implications for Australia. “This is really quite disastrous to have thousands of pages of your combat system leaked in this way,” the senator told ABC radio.

Sea trials for the first of India’s six Scorpene submarines began in May. The
project is running four years behind schedule.

The Indian Navy has boasted that its Scorpene submarines have superior stealth
features, which give them a major advantage against other submarines.
The US will be alarmed by the leak of the DCNS data because Australia hopes to
install an American combat system — with the latest US stealth technology — in
the French Shortfin Barracuda.

If Washington does not feel confident that its “crown jewels’’ of stealth
technology can be protected, it may decline to give Australia its state-of-the-art
combat system.

DCNS yesterday sought to reassure Australians that the leak of the data on the
Indian Scorpene submarine would not happen with its proposed submarine for
Australia. The company also implied — but did not say directly — that the leak
might have occurred at India’s end, rather than from France. “Uncontrolled
technical data is not possible in the Australian arrangements,” the company said.
“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, DCNS is the provider and
not the controller of technical data.

“In the case of Australia, and unlike India, DCNS is both the provider and incountry
controller of technical data for the full chain of transmission and usage
over the life of the submarines.”

However, The Australian has been told that the data on the Scorpene was written
in France for India in 2011 and is suspected of being removed from France in that
same year by a former French Navy officer who was at that time a DCNS
same year by a former French Navy officer who was at that time a DCNS

The data is then believed to have been taken to a company in Southeast Asia,
possibly to assist in a commercial venture for a regional navy.
It was subsequently passed by a third party to a second company in the region
before being sent on a data disk by regular mail to a company in Australia. It is
unclear how widely the data has been shared in Asia or whether it has been
obtained by foreign intelligence agencies.

The data seen by The Australian also includes separate confidential DCNS files on
plans to sell French frigates to Chile and the French sale of the Mistral-class
amphibious assault ship carrier to Russia. These DCNS projects have no link to
India, which adds weight to the probability that the data files were removed from
DCNS in France.

DCNS Australia this month signed a deed of agreement with the Defence
Department, paving the way for talks over the contract which will guide the design
phase of the new submarines. The government plans to build 12 submarines in
Adelaide to replace the six-boat Collins-class fleet from the early 2030s. The
Shortfin Barracuda will be a slightly shorter, conventionally powered version of
France’s new fleet of Barracuda-class nuclear submarines.
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said his officials believed the leak had
“no bearing” on the Australia’s submarine program.

“The Future Submarine Program operates under stringent security requirements
that govern the manner in which all information and technical data is managed now
and into the future,” Mr Pyne’s office said in a statement.
“The same requirements apply to the protection of all sensitive information and
technical data for the Collins class submarines, and have operated successfully for

Restricted data
The secret information the leaked documents reveal:
• 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
View the leaked documents below. If you are using a mobile device, you can view
the extracts on the desktop version of
Secret submarine document one
Secret submarine document two
Secret submarine document three
The published leaked documents ‘Restricted Scorpene India’ may be accessed at:

1) for some structural details and communications equipment

2) for acoustic signature and noise level


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.
This entry was posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, Australia, civil-military relations, corruption, Defence Industry, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Navy, Indian Politics, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Weapons, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Scorpene — Leaked DCNS Documents & ‘The Australian’ news report

  1. So the company blames India for the leak.GOI would have known about it for years. If no penalty was/will be imposed then it implies GOI accepts blame. One feels sick of such inaction & ineptitude in GOI.

  2. Kv says:

    Until we have a robust research funding system at university level and industry tieups to defence we will be at some other country’s mercy. France is the size of a state in india, for crying out loud. We can’t build anything.

  3. S3 says:

    Reproducing something written by another poster on another blog


    In 1723, Tzar Peter I the Great issued a decree. Here’s an excerpt, translated by Google from Polish and corrected by me:

    “The owner of the Tula Factory, Kornil Bieloglazov, to be beaten with a whip and sentenced to labour at Monastyr, because he dared to deliver the Russian army poor quality muskets.

    The senior military supervisor, Frol Fuks , to be beaten with a whip and banished to Azov for putting the seal on bad weapons. I command the Armaments Office in St. Petersburg to delegate a representative to Tula to guard the quality of the weapons day and night.

    Let the military supervisors and their assistants diligently heed, how the controllers put the stamps. If they have doubts, let them check themselves through review and shooting of two muskets every month. Let them shoot until they break them.

    If, despite the military gets bad weapons, that breaks during battle, without mercy, beat with lashes:
    * the owner of the factory 25 lashes and a monetary fine, one gold ducat apiece,
    * the senior military controller beat unconscious,
    * the senior supervisor transfer to non-commissioned officers,
    * the supervisor to make a writer, and his assistant deprive the Sunday portion of vodka for a period of one year.

    The new owner of the Weapons Factory, Demidov, is commanded to provide for the supervisors and their assistants, their rooms not inferior to his own. If they are worse – let Demidov not be offended – I’ll have his head cut off.”

    What you need is someone above the law, capable of righting systemic wrongs – a tzar.

  4. Maximus says:

    What’s the use to cry foul after the heist, habibi?These are the acche din, the cannery has sung. Just imagine a world where you know all about your enemies secrets and vice versa. Thats just musings, in dire real world, India ‘s secrets are for grabs for every nation, but not the other way around. And after being hit, india is still in the dark, offers the other cheek in return. If that’s not moribund, what else is? Wouldn’t be surprised if Langley or their cousins in MI5 know much more about India’s technological secret crown jewels, then she could ever dream of.

    • Maverick says:

      As per the report in The Australian a French naval officer is behind this leak.How is GOI responsible? As VK Singh famously said “if a dog dies in car accident Modi is responsible” get some right perspective for God’s sake, don’t use such serious issues to score brownie points against Modi.

      • Maximus says:

        @Maverick GOI is very much responsible.

        i) After acknowledging that there was a heist (not leak), GOI is communicating that nothing serious was published. Has government gone through all the published documents, and documents that will be published or sold to other agencies ?

        ii) When gov. of Australia is communicating that the published documents are a serious breach of security, how come you and your supported gov. is hiding its head in the sand? GOI still wants to go ahead with the Scorpene deal as if nothing has happend- surely personal interests are at stakes here, the deal is quite lucrative for everyone.

        iii) There are still more documents to be published. Australian reporter said there will be details on armament coming Monday.

        iiii) If you read carefully, DCNS is assuring, that the “leak” didn’t happen from the French side: ” The company also implied — but did not say directly — that the leak
        might have occurred at India’s end, rather than from France. “Uncontrolled
        technical data is not possible in the Australian arrangements,” the company said.
        “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, DCNS is the provider and
        not the controller of technical data.

        Moot point is, why are you backing the government in this matter, whats the agenda?
        Sure, if “human casualty hurts like when a puppy is ran over a car”, then i rather rest my case.

      • Maverick says:

        “ofcourse GOI is responsible”you need to specify which one, wether UPA or the present govt.

        Scorpenes contract was awarded in 2005 and these documents leaked in 2011 during UPA rule.So when you deride Modis slogan of acche din kindly get your facts right.

        Moreover CAG report on the Scorpene deal in 2008 said-
        “the contractual provisions resulted in undue financial advantage to the vendor of a minimum of Rs 349 crore, besides other unquantifiable benefits,”

        The CAG report also said-
        India also extended to the vendor “Wide ranging concessions” on warranty, performance bank guarantee, escalation formula, arbitration clause, liquidated damages, agency commission and performance parameters.

        Have a look at whole story- e-mails.

        As I mentioned this is a serious matter,we know this without any Australian feedback,an enquiry under CNS has been ordered,what more can be done presently?or do you want GOI to jump the gun by being alarmist without getting to the bottom of this whole sordid episode.As for not accessing the leaked documents from Australian,Parrikar today said why should we when we are presuming the worst?

        If you want to believe the assurance given by DCNS it’s your Macaulayite (not
        mineral)outlook to blame, that will believe any bullshit spoken by a gora.

        As for my agenda,only a person who has been reading a lot of plup fiction thrillers will look for an agenda in an innocuous comment asking for some right perspective, on a serious issue that has not played out fully yet.If you are looking for conspiracy theories where none exist,I really don’t have anything to say to you.

  5. &^%$#@! says:

    This DCNS leak episode is acquiring very serious proportions. According to the India Today article:
    (Please replace all instances of “DOT” with “.”).
    DCNS not only not only kept the Indians in the dark about the leak (which is known), but is alluding to the possibility that the leak came from the Indian side. This is a very serious act of malfeasance on the part of the French. There is possibly a lot more to this episode than what is being reported. I believe that the Indian Government needs to seriously re-consider its “roll over and p[lay dead” policy! For starters, the Indian ambassador to France should be recalled “for consultations” till the French start coming clean, and a few prominent French diplomats should be kicked out of New Delhi after being given just a few hours notice to leave.

  6. MS says:

    This chapter is closed as newspapers suggest that the Govt does not consider leaks to be that substantial, unless the disquiet continues for long and hits the system-just like the tap is closed but if the tap starts dripping even vey slowly, it will cause damage.

    • Maximus says:

      “we know this without any Australian feedback”.Kindly let the reader know, how it took you (and don’t speak of we) 5 years after the heist to come to this conclusion. If it were not for the Australians current GOI would still lurch in the dark for the next 5 years. Current GOI is saying that critical passages of the document were blackened out, (therefore savvy intelligence agencies have no clue what’s critical) so everything is fine in neverland. Intriguing to read, that you don’t believe any bullshit white men tell. But how come you are ready to squander billions of € to the same white men, when they sell you lame ducks and canneries ? Your national security is in jeopardy, and you are not alarmed.

  7. Maverick says:

    Don’t twist words out of context just for the sake of arguing,the reference was to the seriousness of this leak, not as you suggest to knowledge or lack of it having taken place.The ‘we’ I refer to is right thinking Indians,sad to see that you dont consider yourself to be one.

    As to why we give billions of € to the white man for lame ducks and canneries. Assuming that you refer to imported defence equipment,seemingly you are unaware of how indigenous efforts to build military kit has been systematically run into the ground by the Indian armed forces themselves over the last 60 odd years.Suggest you to read Bharat Karnads numerous articles highlighting this problem, it should be an eye opener for you or read his book ‘Why India is not a great power yet’.We can pick up this argument later.Au revoir.

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