French submarine leak ’embarrassing’: Australian minister

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A massive leak of secret data on French submarines is embarrassing, Australia’s Defence Industry minister said on Friday, stressing that security between Australia and the DCNS shipbuilders would be “the most stringent in the world”.

The Australian newspaper reported this week that it had seen 22,400 leaked pages detailing the combat capability of the Scorpene-class DCNS submarine designed for the Indian navy. Variants of the submarine are used by Malaysia and Chile, with Brazil due to deploy the vessels from 2018.

Australia awarded French contractor DCNS a USD 38 billion contract last April to design and build its next generation of submarines. “Obviously it is a very serious matter for the Indian navy and for the DCNS project,” Australia’s Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told Channel Nine.

Pyne stressed that the leak had “no bearing at all on the Australian project” as Canberra has commissioned a different model to the Scorpene. The Australian’s scoop prompted DCNS to file a complaint to France’s public prosecutor over the leak, who must now decide whether to launch a preliminary inquiry, hand it over to instructing magistrates or set the case aside, a French legal source told AFP.

“The French government is obviously investigating a very serious leak,” Pyne said. “It’s embarrassing for DCNS and it’s embarrassing for the Indian navy.” The Australian newspaper said the leaked documents were marked “Restricted Scorpene India” and revealed the combat capabilities of India’s new submarine fleet.

They also included 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 Australian Broadcasting Corporation said Australia’s defence department has told DCNS it wants the same level of protection as the United States gives for information on Australia’s submarines.

“Our security measures with both the United States, with the Collins Class submarine, with the air warfare destroyers, as they will be with DCNS, are the most stringent in the world,” Pyne said. “There has never been a breach in the many decades in which they have been operating.”

Australia awarded its submarine contract to DCNS but 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-tonne Barracuda.

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