Another Scorpene document; CNS Lanba’s call: Indian Navy and national security or the French Scorpene

The only upside of the leak of 22,400 highly-classified documents relating to the Indian Scorpene is that it is now no secret that this submarine in the Indian fleet is a naval and national security liability. That this vast trove of secret material went missing in 2011 suggests that anybody who wanted access has had it — especially Pakistan and Chinese intel agencies — for the last FIVE years. In other words, had the documents not been leaked to ‘The Australian’, the Indian Navy and govt would have gone serenely about their business, assuming that the supposedly super-stealth qualities of this French item would surprise an adversary or two in war!

It is certain that the Pakistan and Chinese navies are by now fully in the know of the minutest aspects of this boat’s on-board weapons, sensors, combat management system, etc, and that this boat is an open book and, unbeknownst to GOI/MOD/Indian Navy, has been for the past many years. Will IN risk taking this platform to sea? It will be blown out of the water at the first instance of hostile action. And yet GOI and Indian Navy seem to believe the crock put out by the French company DCNS and the French govt that this material out in the market may be “sensitive but [is] neither critical nor confidential”. Come again?! In fact, the navy maintains, per some news stories, that as the documents have redacted parts, the secrets are hence not out! This is laughable stuff. It appears the navy is, in fact, guileless and gullible. If it is, God save India!

And, what’s the guarantee this is all the documents that have been leaked? Is the Modi regime going to believe Paris and risk it all, or rely on common sense of which there’s always been a deficit in Delhi?

The BJP dispensation is not doing the one set of things that are imperative: Immediately TERMINATE the Scorpene contract, STOP production of this submarine at the Mazgaon Dockyard Ltd, Mumbai, and START the process of recovering the monies paid out so far to DCNS in the cumulative $24 billion deal.

To make it amply clear India means business, Delhi should recall its ambassador, ask Paris to withdraw its envoy, and if satisfaction is not forthcoming especially on financial restitution, the promise of more serious actions to follow.

But all this will depend on the Indian Navy’s assessment of the situation. The one quality everybody acknowledges about the present CNS Admiral Sunil Lanba is that he is a stickler for propriety and has a spotless record on corruption, which last attribute is not what many of his predecessors in the post could boast of. There are economically huge interests at play here. If Lanba’s report minimizes the real and irreparable damage done to the prospects of the Scorpene in Indian service, then his name will go down in infamy, and national security will take a dive. If, on the other hand, he concludes with every justification that the country and the navy cannot afford to have a completely compromised Scorpene in their service and that this submersible is, for all intents and purposes, useless and unusable as a fighting platform. And that, whatever the consequences for the country’s sea denial capability, India should therefore proceed to return the Kalavari to France and ask DCNS to pack up and get the hell out, he will have done the duty by India that he is sworn to do. In that case the Modi govt, however much it may wish to do otherwise with potentially another scam in the offing relating to the PM’s offer to buy 36 Rafale combat aircraft off the shelf, will have no alternative than to cancel the Scorpene contract and ask DCNS/French govt to return forthwith all the monies forked over so far — as much as $7-$10 billion. It is Lanba’s call.

Below are reproduced two new Scorpene stories from ‘The Australian’ and another secret document among the 22,400 documents the newspaper has in its possession. These will no doubt be dribbled out over a long period of time (to increase newspaper sales and subscriptions and keep alive the international interest).
THE AUSTRALIAN, Aug 25, 2016
Defence warns French submarine builder DCNS on data security
By Cameron Stewart

The Defence Department has warned the French company in the middle of the global
submarine leaks scandal that it will demand the same level of information security on the
new submarine project as Australia enjoys with its closest ally, the US.

The warning was issued privately to French shipbuilder DCNS by a senior Defence
official hours after The Australian broke the story on Wednesday that 22,400 secret
DCNS document about India’s new submarine fleet had been leaked.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne ordered that the warning be issued, showing
that the Turnbull government was deeply concerned by the ramifications of the DCNS
leak on Australia’s $50 billion submarines project, even though it said publicly that it
had no relevance to Australia.

Australia’s information security is most stringent with the US because of the importance
of joint facilities such as Pine Gap and their joint membership of the powerful Five Eyes
intelligence alliance.

DCNS is expected to announce today that it will set up a new security committee in
Australia to help safeguard against leaks of classified data for the project.
The Paris-based company, which will design 12 subs for Australia, has been heavily
criticised in India’s media for the leaks which many Indian experts believe haveromised the country’s new fleet of six Scorpene subs.

DCNS Australia head Sean Costello said the new security committee would “govern the
measures which DCNS develops to deliver the Australian government’s stringent
security requirements for the Future Submarine Program”.

The leaks scandal has grown into a firestorm in India and France where it has been frontpage
news, as both governments seek to grapple with the damage it has done to India’s

page news, as both governments seek to grapple with the damage it has done to India’s
national security and to DCNS’s global reputation. The 22,400 pages of leaked secret documents, marked “Restricted Scorpene India” – reveal the highly sensitive combat and stealth capabilities of India’s Scorpene subs, including the frequencies at which they gather intelligence, their range, endurance, diving depths, the noise they radiate at different speeds as well as their magnetic and infra-red

Secret subs document: System and operating data

Two former high-ranking Pakistani generals have told The Australian that the Pakistani
and Chinese spy agencies would be doing all they could to get their hands on leaked
documents which reveal the capabilities of India’s new submarine fleet — that is if they
don’t already have the documents. Former Pakistan army chief Jehangir Karamat said
Australia should be “concerned” about using the same French firm to manufacture its
subs. In France, where a formal government investigation is underway, DCNS said the
leak might have been a case of “economic warfare” against the company.

“Competition is getting tougher and tougher, and all means can be used in this context,”
a DCNS spokeswoman said.

“There is India, Australia and other prospects, and other countries could raise legitimate
questions over DCNS. It’s part of the tools in economic warfare.”
Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has asked his navy to submit an interim report
on the leak in the next few days as the New Delhi government tries to work out how
badly the leak might affect the security of its new fleet.

“We have to be very careful in making our assessments,” Mr Parrikar said.
“All aspects of the matter will be examined and whatever preventative measures need to
be taken will be taken.”

Investigations in India and France will seek to uncover the key question of whether the
leaked data may have fallen into the hands of a foreign government and especially its
strategic rivals Pakistan and China.

The Australian has been told that the secret data was removed from DCNS by a former
sub-contractor in 2011 and taken to a private company in Southeast Asia before being
passed to a branch of that company in a second Southeast Asian nation. A disk containing the data filed was then posted in regular mail to a company in Australia.

DCNS is focusing its investigation on former employees and sub-contractors involved in
the project. At this stage it is not thought that the leak came from India.
The Turnbull government has tried to allay fears that the same sort of catastrophic data
leak of DCNS submarine data could occur when the French company designs its
Australian subs, to be called the Shortfin Barracuda.

Mr Pyne said he was confident that the subs program operated “under stringent security
requirements” governing sensitive technical data. Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has called the leak disastrous and says the government should consider suspending negotiations with DCNS.
In April France was awarded the lucrative contract to build the $50bn new submarine fleet ahead of fellow bidders Germany and Japan.

The Scorpene leak is one of the largest and most damaging data dumps of its kind and
comes only three months after India began sea trials for the first of its six Scorpene subs.
The data leak is also a blow to the navies of Malaysia, Chile, and, from 2018, Brazil,
which also operate the Scorpene sub.
A 2nd story published in the THE AUSTRALIAN, Aug 26, 2016

Pakistan, China ‘keen to get hands on leaked subs documents’

By Greg Bearup

Pakistani and Chinese spy agencies would be doing all they could to get their hands on
leaked documents that reveal the capabilities of India’s new submarine fleet, according
to two former high-ranking Pakistani generals. That was if they didn’t already have the documents, they said.

Former Pakistani army chief Jehangir Karamat said Australia should be “concerned”
about using the same French firm, DCNS, to manufacture its subs.

The report in the The Australian this week about a 22,000-page leak containing the
specifications of a French- designed sub destined for the Indian Navy has been the lead
story on Indian television and on the front pages of its newspapers.

“India assesses vulnerability of Scorpene submarines after a leak of secret data,’’ said the
headline on the Hindustan Times, while The Hindu led with a story about the sloppy
handling of the highly sensitive documents by DCNS: “Not a tight ship, submarine
project leaked like a sieve.”

Indian politicians and defence officials are fuming and are hunting the source of the leak
while trying to assess the damage.

“The French-designed subs are so advanced, so silent under water that they are extremely
difficult, if not impossible to detect,” said a report on English-language news channel
NDTV. “But according to The Australian, the leak of the 22,000 pages has technical
specifications that would make detection possible.”

General Karamat told The Australian the leakwas“mind-boggling’’. “I can understand Australia’s concern (that the same company is building its subs),’’ said General Karamat, who was previously Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. “I guess it’s too early to say anything but the report does mention that China and
Pakistan would be interested. Indeed, anyone involved in counter measures would be
most interested.’’

Retired general Talat Masood, who also served as secretary for defence production in
Pakistan’s Defence Ministry, told The Australian the leak was extremely embarrassing
to India and France: “The point here is that definitely Pakistan would be interested

to India and France: “The point here is that definitely Pakistan would be interested
because India has been expanding its naval fleet and it would very much like to know
what are the capabilities of the submarine … this document, to a large extent, would
reveal that.”

He said subs were vitally importance in the region. “The Chinese are building the
corridor, and so on, and also the Indians want to expand their influence on the seas and
the US has been supportive of that,” he said.
New Scorpene India document published along with the above two stories with, as on the last occasion, parts redacted — inked, by the newspaper as too sensitive:

It has the ‘System Technical Manual’ for underwater warfare sub-system — various sonars — distributed array, active array, etc, & ‘Operational Instruction Manual’ for combat management system

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, China, China military, civil-military relations, corruption, Defence Industry, domestic politics, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Indian Politics, Military Acquisitions, Pakistan, Pakistan military, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Weapons, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Another Scorpene document; CNS Lanba’s call: Indian Navy and national security or the French Scorpene

  1. Venkat says:

    There is a lot of over reaction here.
    If you take kilo class, it is operated by Chiba, Vietnam etc. by extension pakistan knows all about it. Same with K9 artillery , turkey has it so pakistan can learn.
    Israel has F-16, so we exercise & learn. Chiba has Su-30, so pakistan learns.
    No end to it.

    That is why japs keep their soryu under wraps. We do the same with Arihant.

    So when we buy foreign, the assumption should be baseline data is known and even worse can be shared during wartime due to political alignments (exocet missile during Falkland war) then we operate around them. Fortunately the government of india decided to build all 6 here, so there is ample scope to vary behaviours over baseline offered.
    This paper should have been published after a fortnight of thought & research , not in a hurry.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Venkat: Please note that weapon systems within a given class made for different customers adhere to different specifications. For example, Pakistani F-16’s will not posses the same configuration as those operated by NATO countries.

    • quickboy says:

      That is exactly the point, Either you have to make every nut&bolt yourselves, or otherwise need to make modifications to get that one up machine, Well the course is clear, Just make the modifications necessary to keep things under control, Of course there should be a way to keep these things and change the profile, Might take sometime, Well how does this affect the costlier thing? THE RAFFALES!!, As far as we know we cannot modify them like Sukhois. Or the most honourable thing, Keep this to practise and built ARIHANT class more (assuming no one in 2011 leaked that too)

  2. Punjabi Sardar says:

    I think they will let it play out for few months & go slow. They don’t want to damage relations with France, as we have few allies & more importantly, are not at the point of being an independent pole with a v large economy, secured agriculture/water & a strong mic.

    5 years till that still, at minimum.

    This may see India growing increasingly close with Japan/Vietnam as a high tech import market & customer for cheap military exports, respectively.

    One can hope & to rope in Russia for a proper mig 35/kaveri upgrade deal in place of the Rafale.

    With a strong Japan, Vietnam, Russia, India pole we can hope to balance the G2 situation & strengthen our infrastructure & military ecosystem.

    India needs to find better ‘allies’ than Us/Gcc/France

    There are opportunities with Turkey, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand etc

    Basically Central Asia & Se Asia ie our traditional sphere of influence.

    Can it be done?

    Is there will??

    At the people level, we all want to go to USA / Australia or Canada & UK.

    We need to start looking at these 2nd tier countries & creating strong minorities there, like the Chinese have done.

    Iran Afghanistan also need to be roped in & importantly we must deal with internal demographic & conversion threats.

    Those will kill us long term.

    Are we up to challenge? Or have we decided to go out partying in hedonism like Rome & Greece.

  3. MS says:

    I was waiting for you write what you did in the first paragraph. Chinese are quick movers unlike us-they would get such stuff in 2 days. They also enjoy testing our confidence-to see whether the present govt is different from the timid last one or not, like for instance mouthing something on Brahmos deployment.

    On this score-the govt should come to the conlusion to what you have arrived. I do not think a reaction like recalling ambassador may be required but some posturing has to be done to negotiate and recover losses-I was expecting that you would advise the govt to get the short fin barracuda technology instead, under the same old scorpene contract, after sending them back the useless scorpene.

    Although, your advice is better-take the money back because we do not have the “proven expertise” in handling the French teams. So, let’s ask for money and give them a freash tender for barracuda short fin but for the same money for equal number of boats as scorpene-if they leak that, then both Austalia and India will be in same boat, literally.

    Mr Lamba need not feel the pressure-he just has to declare the scorpene unfit for any defence and offence, and let the govt decide whether it will send the boat back or station is at a museam for kids’ education or worse tell the Navy to take it for dips in the sea.

  4. Edelbert Badwar says:

    With all due respect, scrapping the deal as you suggest will be suicidal.The Scorpene build SHOULD continue with some tinkering done to the vessels.We also have an alternative project the P 75I which can be speeded up.We do not want to go the HDW-Bofors way again.

    • Sorry, but “tinkering” with the Indian Scorpene isn’t going to help, as the broad range of performance and stealth parameters are already available. It will need fairly hefty restructuring which, unless done entirely at DCNS’ expense, won’t be worth the trouble. The Indian Scorpene is about as useless as a transparent hunter-killer platform can be. HDW was jettisoned for the wrong reasons. Scorpene has to be trashed because of nil military utility unless the Indian Navy means to field them as showpieces to fill out the force in peacetime.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Edelbert Badwar: In case it has escaped your attention, we are discussing a highly sophisticated submarine and not a bicycle. Mere “tinkering” the vessel as you have wisely suggested will not rectify the damage done.

  5. Maximus says:

    Mr Karnad, can even God save India?

    Recently an investigation undertaken by the Outlook magazine showed how India’s vital institutions are leaking secrets in real-time to other countries.Agencies had managed to “test-scan penetrate” over three lakh routers in the heart of the capital and expose India’s best-kept crown jewels. 95 per cent of them, in such critical departments as defense, finance, space and communications.
    India is – as per my knowledge- the only country, which after being hit, says nothing has happened, nothing serious, lets put our heads in the warm and cozy sand, if possible as deep as possible.God will save.
    Below are some of the key establishments in New Delhi whose leaky routers hackers have plugged into-and the location of the rouge servers:

    Defence Research and Development Organisation, Timarpur – Germany

    Indian Coast Guard, Purana Qila – Manchester, United States

    Air Force Station, Race Course Road – Denever, United States

    Narcotics Control Bureau, R.K. Puram – United States

    Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Dhaula Kuan – Netherlands

    CBI, New CBI HQs, CGO Complex – Providence, United States

    NTPC, SCOPE Complex – United States

    Chief of Naval Staff, C-Wing, Sena Bhavan – Lithuania

    Air Force Communication Centre, Bayu Bhavan – Denever, US

    Chief of Naval Staff, South Black, United States

    Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Jhandewalan – United States

    Indian Airlines, Safdarjung Airport – Germany

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Maximum: Your post describes only the upper tip of a very large and deep iceberg. However, nothing will ever change in India. It doesn’t matter whether a Chaiwala is the PM, or the PM becomes a Chaiwala (as was the case with MMS).

      • devraj says:

        As you point india needs to test to perfect its thermonukes,but indian government not doing this. Reason may be that India lacks uranium for nuclear bomb programme and if india tested the supply of uranium from foreign sources would be cut off and this would hurt Indian bomb making.

      • Wrong post for this perennial issue. But to repeat — No, India does not have to stop fusion weapons testing for fear of uranium supply cutoff becoz’ there are enough countries willing to sell this material, if necessary, on the sly.

  6. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    I would be wrong to presume that this leak has no implications for battle readiness of Scorpene. In the hands of skilled men even operating instructions will give out vital details of the full capabilities of the main systems. A flip side of tight optimization practices pursued in modern weapons design is that you can work out in reverse order the reasonable constraints and most effective deployments.

    Not doing anything would be worst thing to do. Scorpenes should now be revised heavily. Going after the French is useless mostly. They will never own upto the leak and we will waste precious time.

    In the interim Buy/Lease about 1/2 conventional sub off the shelf from the Russians and speed up the Arihants and increase the planed Arihant numbers.

    Also make changes to the existing and further Scorpenes, whether the French agree to the changes or not. Specifically the IN can look at the AIP, Torpedos, Mines, Missile capabilities, Sonars for replacement. French need not know anything about any kind of reverse engineering. They will suspect it and stop further ToT but the ToT itself may not even be needed. If they are willing to re-negotiate for tighter ToT schedules, good, if not, just pull up the socks and reverse engineer on your own. Such un-optimized changes may not be the best for the Scorpene but it would for sure change the threat perception to those who by now have these 22000+ pages with them. Its not like all submarines fire off all their load every time. There is room for Jugaad.

    Surprising thing is the MoD, PMO and IN all behave like nothing happened. Even the so called opposition is silent.

  7. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    The veterans studied the few leaked pages — with redacted data — put out by the paper, and intense discussions followed in the group for the first three days. In the end, there was near unanimity that while such data being put out publicly was not a good thing, it did not affect Project-75 in any significant way. ………………. Captain J S Malik, a retired submariner with 32 years of experience who served as Director of Submarine Operations in Navy Headquarters, said, “Most of this data is generic and belongs to Naval Staff Qualitative Requirements (NSQR) provided by the Navy to the French company, and ‘binding data’ for the product. It does not pertain to any specific submarine, and has limited usage for the adversary.”


    Does it make you laugh or cry?

  8. Rahul(Kolkata) says:

    Last heard, a naval Mig 29K took off from Vizag, a drop tank fell off accidentally, the pilot was asked to go to open seas and drop off the other drop tank, he tried 4 times, each time the drop tank refused to come off, after that when he attempted to make a landing, the drop tank fell off into CISF quarters strating a fire…

    If buying such junk Russian hardware as part of overexpensive and overhyped refurbished aircraft carrier is not a scam, then nothing is. What the BJP govt should immediately do is to call up the Russian envoy, give him a kick in his butt, recall envoy from Russia and stop all relationships with that country until and unless they replace all the junks they have sold to India with Indian taxpayers money and agree to setup a speare parts hub here with full Indian control…

    Until then, these Mig’s and Sukhois will be best at what it is: mosquitoes on an August night waiting to be gobbled up by the Chinese ad Paki machines….

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