Maritime defence deep in the weeds

Maritime defence deep in the weeds

The Scorpene papers leak has stung India as no other Defense leak has done before. Because this one now involves our very capability to guard our...

The Scorpene papers leak has stung India as no other Defense leak has done before. Because this one now involves our very capability to guard our waters and the way the whole thing got compromised, it should be the primary concern of the government now.

Any government's reaction to the news would have been anything but the way we reacted. Even before the matter got the attention of the world and much before the Congress reacted, our Defence Minister goes ahead and says the leak was the result of a hack.

The French government has already ordered a probe and it would take some time for the assessment of the damage potential. The probe would look into whether the leaked documents have the potential for damage and if so to what an extent. It is not much into who has done it and where it has come from. Because, the company itself knows who has done it and has already sacked the employee though it is yet to come out with the name of the employee.

In fact, its reaction to the The Australian exposure was this: "DCNS has been made aware of articles published in the Australian press related to the leakage of sensitive data about Indian Scorpene. This serious matter is thoroughly investigated by the proper French national authorities for Defense Security. This investigation will determine the exact nature of the leaked documents, the potential damages to DCNS customers as well as the responsibilities for this leakage”.

Cameron Stewart, an investigative reporter with The Australian, who broke the story, told Indian media that no Navy would want such data as has been leaked on the Scorpene submarine system to be in the public domain.

"My information is that the data went from a DCNS employee in France, were taken by him to Southeast Asia, where probably he used it to establish his credibility, and did not give out the information. That person for various reasons consolidated the data, and a private company ended up having the data.

Then the data was transferred to a company in another country, and in some point it was posted to an Australian company, without any security care. There are lots of holes in this story, but that is what I have been told. I do not believe that the leak came from India, but it came from France,” he says.

This employee who leaked the vital stats was working with the Mazgaon Docks Limited, Mumbai, either with DCNS India or with one of the many sub-contractors in the supply-chain of the company.

A query, rather a set of questions, was sent by me to The response is awaited. By the by, Emmanuel Gaudez is the head of Media Relations, DCNS. I sought to know why the company remained silent when one of its employee made good with the data. Hope I get his response soon.

"The sea is a demanding yet rich environment, which is explored in all its dimensions. In its depths, on the surface and in the air, its conquest requires energy and a deep understanding of the most sophisticated sciences and techniques. Every day, passionate men and women dream up future solutions at sea to meet the human, economic and environmental challenges. Here, they open up to you the routes to their maritime expertise.”

This is a self-explanatory note of the company on its commitment to the conquest of the seas. What message would DCNS like to send to foreign navies through the deployment of these innovations?

Vincent Fabre who coordinates the overall combat systems of Naval vessels made by the DCNS had this to say about his company's commitment to the making of these modern vessels: “Today, the cost/lead-time aspect is a determining factor. The geopolitical context is evolving.

The needs of certain States can arise from one day to another, with ever shorter cycles. Previously, vessels were built in 90 months, then 60. DCNS now possesses the necessary operational agility to complete this within 38 months, from design to acceptance. Our ability to rise to such a challenge was made possible by the incredible skill and investment of the DCNS teams, not forgetting our industrial partners".

Shallow waters Mr Fabre!
The leak gives away Scorpene's exact position to the enemies. Anyone going through the pages will have not only graphic view of cylindrical array but also could access all the parameters involved in the making including mechanical, electrical and environmental components. It clearly mentions the hydraulic operating pressures and gives away the maximum pressure etc.

The operational characteristics and the transmission frequencies and transmitted pulse length, Impedence (for each stave), Bearing Arc (horizontal), Elavation Arc (vertical) and Sound Levels (inside stave acoustics axis and outside acoustics axis and vertical directivity are all there to see. The operating instructions manual which displays the Combat Management System gives away Sensor Zone details.

The Command and Weapon Control Zone which includes 16 main graphical elements with launching capability per tube and the tube status and the status of the weapon in the tube are all given in the leaks. In addition its radio frequencies both civilian and maritime are out in the open now. For example the frequency range 150.8 MHz - 163.6 MHz is specified. If someone is naive to believe that as the exact figures are redacted, there is no danger to the country, they should know that this blacking out has been done by The Australian.

Why is this so important to India? Heard of String of Pearls theory of China? A premier international magazine, The Diplomat has this to say: Is the “String of Pearls” theory valid? This is a debate which has been ongoing since the term was coined in 2005, when the US consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton published “Energy Futures in Asia.”

In this report, Booz Allen predicted that China would try to expand its naval presence throughout the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) by building maritime civilian infrastructure in friendly states in the region, a strategy dubbed the “String of Pearls.” Since then, there has been much speculation and debate surrounding the validity, extent and potential intentions behind the concept.

The tricky thing about the String of Pearls debate is that there is a problem with definition. Looking at much of the available literature, the “lowest common denominator” definition is that each “Pearl” represents some form of permanent Chinese military installation in a series of locations along a “String” stretching from Southern China, through the Indian Ocean, to the areas from where China imports much of its natural resources, such as Africa and the Middle East.

The building of airfields and other military facilities in the South China Sea continues. While this might not seem immediately relevant to the IOR, a potential “Pearl” located at the approaches to China itself could conceivably fit into a wider “String of Pearls” strategy.

Chinese submarines have been spotted several times in the Indian Ocean in the recent years. In late 2014, a Song-class attack boat docked in Colombo harbor to refuel, ostensibly en-route to join the Chinese anti-piracy squadron in the Gulf of Aden.

A couple of weeks later, a nuclear Han-class appeared in Colombo, together with an announcement from Beijing stating that the People’s Liberation Army Navy would begin submarine combat patrols in the Indian Ocean.

After South China Sea, it is the Indian Ocean that is key to China's dominance of this part of the world where it sees India as its primary opponent. This is where the Scorpene sting bites us. India cannot guard its waters against its enemies with Scorpenes any longer.

That is it!

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