Mains 2016 Initiative

Mains 2016: Scorpene data leak – Implications and Way Ahead

Indian Navy's first Scorpene submarine of project 75 is seen after being undocked from Mazagon Docks Ltd, a naval vessel ship building yard, in Mumbai. Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar. 06.04.2015. Mumbai.
Indian Navy’s first Scorpene submarine

Scorpene Data Leak

India signed a $3.5bn (£2.6bn, €3.1bn) deal for six Scorpene vessels in 2005 with France. They are being built in cooperation with a state-owned Mumbai shipbuilder.
Over 22,000 pages of top secret data on the capabilities of six highly advanced submarines being built for the Indian Navy in Mumbai in collaboration with a French company have been leaked. The confidential documents were made public by the Australian media.
The Scorpene submarines are small-to-intermediate size vessels currently in use in Malaysia and Chile. Brazil is due to deploy the submarine type in 2018.

What data has been leaked?

  • The leaked data is said to include very sensitive details of the submarine such as technical manuals and models of the boat’s antennae.
  • It gives elaborate details of frequencies at which the submarine gathers intelligence, what levels of noise it makes at various speeds, range and endurance.
  • The documents also disclose the magnetic, electromagnetic and infrared data.
  • The noise specifications of the propeller and the radiated noise levels that occur when the submarine surfaces, have also been leaked.

Implications of leak

  • The leak will have major implications for the defense preparedness of the Indian Navy. In the case of submarines, it is their stealth that sets them apart Data is very crucial and it will have ramifications for the freedom with which Indian submarines can move in high-seas.
  • The deployment of submarines will be affected since very vital equipment data has been leaked.
  • The contents of the report will undermine India’s maritime security.
  • It is going to be challenging to India’s own Ocean strategy. Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean has increased dramatically the past few years.
  • Scorpene was supposed to be the Indian counter to other powers in the ocean, data leakage put India on the.
  • Scorpene incident is the reminder of India’s need to re-look at its own cyber security and defense production norms.
  • Despite the claims of the defense ministry and other government agencies, India remains a laggard in terms of securing its more sensitive systems.
  • Cyber security remains a policy domain fragmented among over a dozen agencies.
  • India continues to import pretty much all of its military needs including combat rifles and specialized clothing. This leakage should be an alarming bell for India to create its own indigenous industry.
  • Kalvari is the first of the Scorpene-class submarines for India, which was scheduled for induction later this year. Now India would have to reconsider the induction that too in the times when regional tension is already escalating in the South Asia. It is an open secret that foreign intelligence agencies and defense firms are reluctant to share sensitive technology with India because they believe the computer systems of its State-owned defense companies are wholly compromised by the Chinese.
  • When India shares any details with any foreign manufacturer, there always is a possibility that the firm may sell the details to  any other countries at a price which is much more attractive, that too without any danger of ramification.

Way ahead

  • The only long-term solution to data leak threats is “Make in India.”
  •  It is a long-term plan that will take 15 to 20 years, but the only way forward is to trust the domestic manufacturers and promote them.
  • Until now the government has been reluctant in sharing any information on defense technologies with private firms, but after this information leak, it looks feasible for India to trust on its own private firms rather than foreign countries.
  • Government must come up with the laws and guidelines that promote trust and coordination between the private firms and government companies in developing complex technologies.

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