New Delhi: With sensitive information related to of combat and stealth aspects of India's Scorpene submarines being allegedly leaked, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday sought a report from the navy, adding that it appeared to be a case of hacking.
The Indian Navy, in a statement, meanwhile said it is analysing the information. The navy also made clear that the source of the leak was not in India.
The Scorpene submarines, designed by French shipbuilder DCNS and being manufactured at the Mazgaon Dockyard in Mumbai at a cost of around $3.5 billion, are conventional diesel vessels that boast of advanced stealth capabilities.
The over 22,000 pages that have been leaked from DCNS contain information on different aspects of the boat, including its underwater sensors, above-water sensors, combat management system, torpedo launch system and specifications, communications system and navigation systems.
While the leaked information is still being analysed to gauge the extent of damage, there is fear that it may compromise the submarine's detectability.
Remaining hidden, or stealth, is considered the most important attribute of a submarine.
Parrikar, at the sidelines of an event on Wednesday morning, said he got information about the alleged leak around midnight.
"The first step is to identify if it relates to us," Parrikar told reporters.
"The Navy Chief (Admiral Sunil Lanba) has been asked to analyse what exactly has been leaked," the Minister said, adding his first assessment was that it was an act of hacking and not a 100 per cent leak.
"We do have our final integration and all that," he said.
"What I can understand -- because it came to my knowledge around 12 a.m. -- there is a hacking. So we will find out all these aspects," he said. "I've told the navy chief to find out all the details. Maybe, in a couple of days I'll be able share with you."
The Indian Navy, in a statement issued shortly after the minister spoke, stressed the leak did not happen in India.
"The available information is being examined at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) and an analysis is being carried out by the concerned specialists."
"It appears that the source of leak is from overseas and not in India," the statement said.
The Australian media reports, quoting DCNS, said that the leak of such technical data could not happen with its proposed submarine for Australia. The French company also alluded that the leak may have occurred at India's end, rather than from France.
"Uncontrolled technical data is not possible in the Australian Arrangements," the company said as per a report in The Australian. "Multiple and independent controls exist within DCNS to prevent unauthorised access to data and all data movements are encrypted and recorded," it said.
"In the case of India, where a DCNS design is built by a local company, DCNS is the provider and not the controller of technical data."
The first of the Scorpene class submarines being built in India, INS Kalvari, went for sea trials in May 2016 and is expected to be inducted in the Indian Navy soon. Variants of Scorpene submarines are also used by Malaysia and Chile, with Brazil to join the club soon.