India is investigating a security breach concerning its French-built Scorpene-class submarines, as a large number of documents detailing the vessels' secret capabilities have been leaked.
More than 22,000 pages reached The Australian, which reported on the details of the submarines' designs.
The submarines were built by the French venture DCNS, and are based on the Scorpene design. Named the Kalvari class, the first diesel-electric boat from the batch was scheduled for entering service at the end of 2016.
The Australian published on its site a number of excerpts from the security documents and adds that it received thousands of pages detailing the Scorpene submarines' underwater sensors, above-water sensors, as well as specs pertaining to the torpedo launch and combat management systems. Last but not least, technical details about the submarines' communications and navigation systems have also reached the news outlet.
The Indian Minister for Defense, Manohar Parrikar, told the media that an investigation is underway to determine how the data leak occurred is in place.
The DCNS is under contract with the Indian government to deliver six submarines, at a total price of about $3.5 billion. The contract, which dates back to 2005, was won by DCNS after rivals such as ThyssenKrupp from Germany and a Japanese joint venture of Mitsubishi and Kawasaki lost the bid.
Reuters reported that DCNS came out via a spokesperson to address the security scandal. The company refused to call the documents authentic at this point, but did mention that the breach could be part of an "economic war" triggered by one of its rivals.
Reuters found out from a political source that documents that made it to the The Australian's website hold information on the submarine that can be qualified as "sensitive." Rumors surfaced that the documents even contain the models of the boat's antennas, which is a level of specificity that can impact national security.
"If it's 22,400 pages, it's a major stuff-up, it's a huge deal," the source said.
They go on to add that if the leaked information is as detailed as rumors go, it makes it easy for anyone to have a thorough understanding of the battle capabilities of the submarines. If everything from speed and noise levels to required speed to raise the mast is in there, then "it is just devastating."
The Indian Navy currently has only 13 subs in its fleet, out of which only half can be used simultaneously. Reuters points out that the acquisition of French-built submarines was meant to push India further in competing with China for Indian Ocean presence.
The Indian Navy did confirm that officials from the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) are looking into the existing information and an analysis of the situation is in progress.
"It appears that the source of leak is from overseas and not in India," the Navy affirmed.
The leak is particularly noteworthy as DCNS recently won a bid to craft 12 vessels destined for Australia's upcoming fleet of subs. In November 2015, submarine contractors of Australia voiced their concerns regarding hacking attempts from foreign nations and the recent leak shows that the warnings were rather close to the mark.
The DCNS refused to make any official comments about the situation.