(Adds DCNS spokesman reaction)
By Sanjeev Miglani
NEW DELHI, Sept 2 India is unlikely to give
French naval contractor DCNS a proposed order for three new
submarines, in addition to the six it is already building in the
country, following the leak of secret data about its
capabilities, Indian defence officials said.
Details of the Scorpene submarine were published in the
Australian newspaper last month, triggering concerns that it had
become vulnerable even before it was ready to enter service.
DCNS had offered to build three more submarines to help
India replace its ageing Soviet-era fleet, and had held talks
over the past year, two Indian sources said.
That offer will not now be taken up, according to the
"We had an agreement for six, and six it will remain," a
defence ministry official briefed on the navy's plans told
Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A navy officer said there had been a serious breach of data
and the navy's efforts were focused on determining the damage
done to the existing submarines.
"No order will be signed, nothing is going to happen now,"
the officer, who is also been briefed on the submarine data
leak, said when asked if the government planned to enlarge the
DCNS spokesman Emmanuel Gaudez said the company was
"stunned" by the information. "The talks are ongoing with the
government and our Indian partners. We have not been informed in
anyway of such a decision," he said.
India's defence ministry has written to DCNS asking for
details about the extent of the leak and how data relating to
the Scorpene's intelligence gathering frequencies, diving depth,
endurance and weapons specifications had ended up in the public
domain, both officials said.
A naval group headed by a three-star admiral is looking at
altering some features of the submarine, the first of which
began sea trials in May for induction later this year, to
minimise any damage.
The remaining five are in various stages of production at
state-run Mazgaon Docks shipyard in Mumbai and they were all due
to enter service by 2020.
An official at Mazgaon Docks said the firm was focused on
completing the original order of six Scorpenes and that he was
not aware of any plan to build more.
A DCNS spokesman had earlier said the firm was in close
touch with "our key customers like India to keep them informed
of the development of our investigation, respond to their
questions and mitigate their legitimate worries".
"The investigation is still ongoing and one of its
objectives is to determine the potential prejudice and minimize
its potential consequences," the spokesman said.
DCNS is preparing to build a new fleet of submarines in
Australia for A$50 billion ($38.13 billion). Australian defence
officials have warned the firm to beef up security in the wake
of the leak.
DCNS has said that the leak, which covered details of the
Scorpene-class model and not the vessel currently being designed
for the Australian fleet, bore the hallmarks of "economic
warfare" carried out by frustrated competitors.
Indian officials have pointed to a "non-disclosure of
information" clause that was written into the 2005 contract at
French insistence, the first defence ministry official briefed
on the communication with the DCNS, said.
But the official said the government could only invoke that
clause if it was established that the data was leaked and not
A French government source has said the firm had apparently
been robbed, and it was not a leak, adding it was unlikely
classified data was stolen.
Indian submarine experts say that, while the breach in
information security was serious, it does not make the
Scorpenes immediately vulnerable to detection.
The most vital data about a submarine is its unique
"signature" of noise, heat and electro-magnetic emissions, and
it is the combination of such signatures that determines the
ability to detect them.
"If that is gone, then you might as well say goodbye to the
submarine. You are exposed," said former vice admiral and
Such signatures are assembled in the course of the sea
trials of a submarine, and in the case of the Scorpenes that has
yet to happen, he said.
India's submarine arm is down to 13 vessels, only half of
which are operational at any time, and is falling rapidly behind
China, which is expanding its maritime presence in the Indian
Even Pakistan, which operates Agosta submarines also built
by DCNS and is in talks with China for a new set of submarines,
is drawing close to the operational strength of the Indian navy.
The Indian government has approved the acquisition of the
next generation of submarines beyond the Scorpene, in an project
estimated at $8 billion.
DCNS has expressed an interest in that project, as has
Russia and Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.
The first defence official said he did not expect any
movement on that project until the investigation into the
Scorpene leak was completed and new security measures put in
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher and Patrick Vignal in
Paris; Editing by Alex Richardson and Dominic Evans)