The French shipbuilder, which earlier this year won a A$50 billion ($38.06 billion) contract to build Australia’s next generation submarines, has suffered a massive data leak, raising doubts about the security of one of the world’s biggest defence projects.
France’s DCNS Group beat out Germany’s ThyssenKrupp AG and a Japanese-government-backed bid by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, in a blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to develop defence export capabilities as part of a more muscular security agenda.
A leak, which runs to 22,400 pages and seen by The Australian (Australian newspaper) details the entire secret combat capability of the six Scorpene-class submarines being built for the Indian Navy by French shipbuilder Direction des Constructions et Armes Navales (DCNS).
The documents were marked “Restricted Scorpene India”. The DCNS documents detailed the most sensitive combat capabilities of India’s new $3 billion submarine fleet and would provide an intelligence bonanza if obtained by India’s strategic rivals, such as Pakistan or China.
The Australian has chosen to redact some of the sensitive information from the documents in the report published by it.
Any stealth advantage for the navy’s new submarines would be gravely compromised if data on its planned combat and performance capabilities was leaked.
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 documents also include instructions to the submarine crew on 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.
Classified Information on Australian Submarines Still Safe
“In the case of Australia, and unlike India, DCNS is both the provider and in-country 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 subcontractor.
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.
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.