French submarine maker hit by massive data leak

Employees standing in front of the Indian Navy's first Scorpene submarine before it was undocked from Mazagon Docks in Mumbai last year. Variants of the Scorpene-class DCNS submarine are used by Malaysia and Chile. Brazil is also due to deploy the ve
Employees standing in front of the Indian Navy's first Scorpene submarine before it was undocked from Mazagon Docks in Mumbai last year. Variants of the Scorpene-class DCNS submarine are used by Malaysia and Chile. Brazil is also due to deploy the vessels from 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

Thousands of leaked pages contain details of subs designed for India, Malaysia and Chile

SYDNEY • French defence contractor DCNS has been hit by a massive leak of secret data on its submarines that is likely to alarm its clients India, Malaysia and Chile, The Australian newspaper reported yesterday.

The 22,400 leaked pages, which the daily said it had seen, detail the combat capability of the Scorpene- class DCNS submarine designed for the Indian Navy, variants of which are used by Malaysia and Chile. Brazil is also due to deploy the vessels from 2018.

The documents include thousands of pages on the submarine sensors and thousands more on its communication and navigation systems as well as nearly 500 pages on the torpedo launch system alone.

The breadth of detail creates a major strategic problem for the countries, said an Australian political source with decades of experience in the global arms industry .

"If it's 22,400 pages, it's a major stuff-up," the source said. "It's a huge deal. It allows them to understand everything about the submarines. What speeds it can do; how noisy it is; what speeds the mast can be raised at... all of that is just devastating."

Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar ordered a probe, saying the documents could have been obtained through hacking.

"I have asked the navy chief to investigate the matter and find what has been leaked and how much of it is about us," he said. India signed a US$3.5 billion (S$4.7 billion) deal in 2005 with DCNS to build six Scorpene submarines at a state-run shipyard in Mumbai.

DCNS said it could not rule out that the leak was part of an "economic war" by competitors after the firm won a tender in Australia earlier this year. "The competition is more and more hard 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 war," a spokesman said.

DCNS said national security authorities had launched an inquiry to determine the precise nature of the documents which had been leaked and the potential damage to customers .

Australia in April awarded DCNS an A$50 billion (S$51.6 billion) contract to design and build its next generation of submarines.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to play down the impact of the leak, saying in Canberra that while it was "of concern", the Scorpene was a different model from the subs Australia is buying.

"The submarine we are building or will be building with the French is called the Barracuda, quite completely different submarine to the Scorpene they are building for India," he told Channel Seven.

"We have the highest security protections on all of our defence information, whether it is in partnership with other countries or entirely within Australia."

Although Australia awarded its submarine contract to DCNS, the secret combat system for the 12 Shortfin Barracudas is being supplied by the United States.

The submarines are a scaled- down conventionally powered version of France's 4,700-ton Barracuda.

The Australian reported that DCNS implied the leak may have come from India rather than France.

The daily, however, said the data was thought to have been removed from France in 2011 by a former French naval officer who at the time was a sub-contractor for DCNS.

The data is believed to have passed through firms in South-east Asia before eventually being mailed to a company in Australia, the newspaper said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'French submarine maker hit by massive data leak'. Print Edition | Subscribe