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Scorpene leak: military experts explain why it may not cause much harm

Pinaki Bhattacharya | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

Although Manohar Parrikar did not explain the defence ministry's assessment of the fallout of Scorpene data leak, he did make his displeasure felt.

Basing his response squarely on the navy's assessment of the impact of the leak of 22,000 documents on the submarine deal, Parrikar said, "What I am given to understand is that there are few pockets of concern assuming that what is claimed to have been leaked, has leaked actually."

Also Read: Why $3.5 billion Scorpene deal leak can harm India's naval capabilities

In others words, he left the door open for penal action against the French manufacturer if it's found that the leak contained substantial technical and strategic information about the submarine that the navy's adversaries could potentially exploit.

Normally, when a new submarine is floated, the most important detail that an adversary wants to know is its underwater sonar signature, which can be used to target it.

Negative gradient of Bay of Bengal, Arabian sea distorts sonar signatures, misguiding rival sub killers

Senior military officers believe the leaked documents do not contain such sensitive details as the sonar signature, which otherwise require enormous effort by the adversary to gather.

"Look, none of the leaked documents is classified above 'restricted'. And information contained in 'restricted' documents is more or less available on the internet. So, if no 'secret' document has been leaked, the danger to us is very little," said Retired Air Marshal Pranob K Barbora.

Also Rea d: The lowdown on Project 75: India's scorpene submarines, four years behind schedule

A retired vice admiral pointed to what can be described as an "operational safeguard" against the leaks. All navies operating in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, he explained, must deal with a peculiar problem. "It's what we call negative gradient water. It means that the temperature drops as the sub goes deeper into the waters. In the process, sound waves from the sub's screws bend away from their actual position, thus misguiding the sonars of the anti-submarine warfare vessels on the surface or even sub-surface."

In naval parlance, propellers are called screws. Sonars of an anti-sub vessel can pick up not only sound made by propellers but also hull popping sounds and even the clinking of glasses in the galley. If these sounds are distorted, say by the negative gradient, they become much more difficult for the "sub killers" to detect.

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First published: 27 August 2016, 12:17 IST