Approximately 22,000 pages of sensitive data about India’s six new French-built Scorpene submarines have leaked onto the Internet, creating what retired Vice-Admiral A.K. Singh described as a “potentially fairly disastrous” situation.
The Wire explains:
India has contracted to purchase six Scorpene-class submarines from the French company DCNS Group at a cost $3 billion, the first of which is already undergoing sea trials. A second is currently being assembled with French help at the Mazagon docks in Mumbai, following which four more will be produced and commissioned.
Unfortunately, someone hacked the shipbuilder, DCNS, and dumped a huge cache of documents dated from 2011 online. Ars Technica says the documents “give very detailed technical information about the combat capability of the Scorpene vessels, which are currently in use in Malaysia and Chile.”
“It appears that the source of [the] leak is from overseas and not in India,” said Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar.
“As a serious matter pertaining to the Indian Scorpene programme, French national authorities for defence security will formally investigate and determine the exact nature of the leaked documents,” said a DCNS spokeswoman.
Retired Vice-Admiral Singh told The Wire this data breach might have “saved the Chinese and Pakistanis 20-30 years of espionage,” anticipating the documents were “no doubt being closely studied in Islamabad and Beijing.”
Among the information divulged in the leaked documents are the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the subs, data that would be useful for tracking them on sonar, and details of the combat systems, including the torpedo launchers.
While Singh said it would be incredibly expensive for India to change the submarines’ design, in hopeful response to the leak, he noted that data on the “frequencies of radiated noise” were not included in the first media report of the breach, published by The Australian; therefore, one of the most important secrets of the Scorpene submarines has been preserved … at least, for the time being. It is still possible other sources will find the files online and publish this radiated-noise data.
As The Wire observes, the data breach is of great concern to Australia because DCNS recently won a $38 billion contract to build Australia’s next-generation Shortfin Barracuda submarine fleet. DCNS appeared confident that its Australian project would not be compromised by the India data leak.
Reuters quotes DCNS suggesting that the data breach could have been an economic-warfare attack, launched by one of its competitors.
“Competition is getting tougher and tougher, and all means can be used in this context. 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,” said a company spokeswoman.
While no specific accusations are leveled, the Reuters article makes a point of noting that Germany’s ThyssenKrupp AG and Japan’s Mitsubishi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries were beaten for the Australia contract by DCNS, a loss viewed as an especially heavy blow by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Also, India’s appetite for new submarines is driven by China’s military expansion in the South China Sea, and China has been known to do a little hacking from time to time.