August 25, 2016

DCNS Leak Drama - CEO DCNS Australia on design similarities of Scorpene and Shortfin

The DCNS Scorpene (above). Click on image to make larger/readable. 
Note the Scorpene's similar shape to Australia's future DCNS Barracuda (below). Major similarities between the Barracuda SSN and the Shortfin SSK derivative will be in hull shape and pressure hull steel. (Diagram courtesy of DCNS).

Computer modelling, which is constantly used by commercial and strategic competitors (think design bureaus in China and Russia) can heavily compensate for the size difference between Scorpenes and Shortfins. This allows competitors to register similar characteristics and vulnerabilities. 


The massive leak of 20,000+ pages of DCNS Scorpene documents reported overnight is of high value to DCNS's commercial competitors and/or strategic value to competitors of Scorpene owning countries. Scorpene owners are Malaysia, India, Chile and Brazil (once Brazil’s 4 Scorpenes and 1 nuclear Scorpene (SN-BR) are built). The Scorpene’s much smaller size (up to 2,000 tonnes submerged) might have been expected to make them very different from the (4,500 tonnes surfaced) Shortfin-Barracuda SSKs that Australia is buying.

Regarding the similarity of the Scorpene and Shortfin designs it is significant what Sean Costello (CEO DCNS Australia) stated in ASPI's The Strategist on 8 April 2016. He wrote: 
"The main area where Barracuda design references were not used was in the area of the electrical system (batteries and voltage), power generation (induction and diesel generators) and propulsion (main electric motor). In these systems the design reference comes from the Scorpene class of diesel electric submarines, or from an existing submarine technology within DCNS. Existing technologies are re-used in all systems in the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A. System by system, the whole ship performance is validated and the design loop closed."

If the now known Scorpene characteristics can be related by computer modelling (or directly by Costello of DCNS) to the Shortfin this does not bode well for the Shortfin's future stealth. Computer modelling, which is constantly used by commercial and strategic competitors (think submarine design bureaus in China and Russia) can heavily compensate for the size difference between Scorpenes and Shortfins.

Also the later Scorpene models (for India and Brazil) were designed over the same period (2000-2010) as the DCNS Barracudas (from which the Shortfin derives).

Major similarities between the Scorpene and the Shortfin will be in hull shape and pressure hull steel - which together influence acoustic and magnetic signatures that an enemy looks for.

BTW - The document leak might also give Pakistan’s competitors insights into Pakistan’s five DCNS Agosta class completed 1979-2006. The Agostas completion overlapped with the first two Scorpenes completed for Chile in 2005 and 2006. Scorpenes and Agostas also share portions of the French SUBTICS combat system (see my details on SUBTICS for Scorpenes and Agostas here).


Quartz India, August 23-24, 2016 reports :

“Over 20,000 pages of top-secret data about India’s mega submarine project leaked, says The Australian”

“India may have a suffered a huge strategic setback, particularly on the naval front.
Some 22,400 pages of data related to the six Scorpene-class submarines that the French government-owned company DCNS was building for the Indian Navy have been leaked, The Australian reported on Aug.24. “The stunning leak… details the entire secret combat capability of the six Scorpene-class submarines..,” the report said.

The leaked documents list out the frequencies at which the submarines gather intelligence and the levels of noise the subs make at various speeds, the news report said. They also contain information on the submarine’s diving depths, range, and endurance, besides its magnetic, electromagnetic, and infrared data.

It is not yet clear how, where, and to whom the top-secret information was leaked. Nevertheless, India’s naval strategies may suffer grievously following this development, particularly if the leaked documents are made available to India’s rivals Pakistan and China.

Fallout in Australia:

In a major embarrassment for DCNS Australia’s Uma Patel and Stephanie Anderson for ABC News Online, August 24, 2016 report“French submarine builder information leak has 'no bearing' on Australia, Malcolm Turnbull says”. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has downplayed the effect of leaks from the French shipbuilder chosen to build Australia's next generation of submarines.


The Australian newspaper, August 24, 2016, reported :

"The US will be alarmed by the leak of the DCNS data because Australia hopes to install an American combat system — with the latest US stealth technology — in the French Shortfin Barracuda. If Washington does not feel confident that its “crown jewels’’ of stealth technology can be protected, it may decline to give Australia its state-of-the-art combat system

...DCNS Australia this month signed a deed of agreement with the Defence Department, ­paving the way for talks over the contract which will guide the design phase of the new ­submarines.” See WHOLE ARTICLE in The Australian.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

According to THE AUSTRALIAN [1], “We have the highest security protections on all of our defense information, whether it is in partnership with other countries or entirely within Australia,” he (Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull) told the Seven Network today.

Ha ha! That’s a good one. The Australian Federal Police has yet solved a series of consecutive leakages of submarine information by CEP in this year.



jbmoore said...


Glad you saw this oopsie by India.


Peter Coates said...

Thanks John

Looks like a pretty bad leak which won't help DCNS's efforts to sell more Scorpenes to India (eg. in this competition ) or to other customers.



Josh said...


The American combat system (I assume a newer variant of AN/BYG-1 already in use with Collins?) I would think would have nothing to do with the stealth of the Shortfin like the article implies but everything to do with how well the sonar suite detects, tracks, and classifies its targets. Which isn't to say it isn't a massively sensitive piece of technology, just that the article seems to mistake the nature of its sensitivity - the same way knowing the exact frequencies and operating principles of Scorpene likely makes it easier to detect (you know what to look for), knowing the ins and outs of an FCS system likely make it easier to mask an opponents position or throw off target motion analysis needed to accurately deploy weapons.


Josh said...

Pete (or anyone)

Is there any chance this could cause existing contracts to be cancelled or require DCNS to pay compensation?


Peter Coates said...

Hi S

Yes the leaks that occurred in Australia last year (on who won the CEP and when the build is to happen) seem to have been quietly forgotten.

DCNS has a major problem repairing the damage of its 20,000+ document leak.



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
Looks like DCNS has sprung a Leak.

Top Secret Data on India’s New Stealth Attack Submarine Leaked

France Plans Inquiry into Scorpene Submarine Design Leak
By: Pierre Tran, August 23, 2016

Anonymous said...

Hi pete,

Are these leaks for Benchmark details of dcns subs or sales Boucher details which are classified as well.

Given the Indian submarine has not completed sea trials there is no way data can be generated for those.

And again if you are willing to buy weapons from other countries you always run the risk of sabotage.

But given the way media is taking it dcns I'd going to have a bad time.

Anonymous said...

In all likelihood, Shortfin, Barracuda, Scorpene all share many design similarities, built from continuous design improvements as DCNS expertise on fluid dynamics progresses over the years.
To the extent that one can get a reasonable close approximation of a submarine shape, competitors sure can coorelate model tank tests to their CFD analyses and learn what a competing submarine can likely do performance wise (at a minimum you can bound the problem). I am sure all submarine design houses do this to some extent.
A leak will for sure allow competitors like China to fine tune their own modeling, advance their own design processes (and addresses any potential shortcomings) as well as develop appropriate counter measures.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh [at 24/8/16 11:45 PM]

I think there would be no automatic legal cancellation or compo. More a case of a political groundswell slowing negotiations.

Achieving progress in the SEA 1000 program has across the board political support in Australia.

Political pressure to watch, however, is influential South Australian Senator Xenophon mentioning putting negotiations with DCNS on ice until the leak issue is clarified - see



Common Sense said...

Pete, from what I've read from former Indian sailors, the information contained is primarily company proprietary and not "classified," as per the confidentiality conventions employed by the Indian Navy. So technically, while it is a disturbing fact, the leak isn't going to sink the Indian Scorpenes.

If the enemy getting access to a sub's blueprints were so dangerous, China would never have brought the Kilo class subs (they are the largest operator now) 10 years after India did and India would have retired hers once China got its boats!

Peter Coates said...

Hi Common Sense

20,000 Restricted documents = upgrade to Secret for big players. The real damage of the 20,000 document dump exists for the large, well organised, information collectos of China and Russia - for their militaries' benefit and for their submarine export interests

As my article made clear (especially after what Costello said - now redded) the damage extends to:

- computer modelling linking Scorpene to Shortfin stealth implications.

- DCNS public and political reputation (including in Australia)