Espionage At INS Vikrant – India’s First Aircraft Carrier

In a breach of national security, INS Vikrant, India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) was hit by an espionage attack where a hard disk and a multi function control (MFC) processor were stolen from the ship docked at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL).

Espionage at INS Vikrant, India's first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier
Espionage at INS Vikrant, India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

While a probe is underway in the matter, the Union home ministry has said that the theft and vandalism was a result of “an internal matter and a possible insider job.”

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which was manning the dock for any suspicious movement or possible terror activity, said that while private security had been manning the construction area of the dock, the probe had been handed over to the state police.

“The disk contains sensitive information crucial for national security and a probe is underway to check if it was an insider job or not,” said a person familiar with the development.

Vikrant, which holds key value in India’s naval warfare strategy and is in the advanced stages of testing, is slated to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.

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Vikrant, weighing 40,000 tonnes, will operate Russian origin MiG-29K fighters. The Project 71 carrier with a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) configuration is expected to add depth to India’s naval warfare capabilities at a time when regional rival China is briskly going ahead with the construction of multiple aircraft carriers. The Indian Navy currently has only one aircraft carrier, the 45,000-tonne INS Vikramaditya, which was bought from Russia.

Chinese Navy Indian Ocean Fleet
Chinese Navy Indian Ocean Fleet

What also adds strategic depth to INS Vikrant is the fact that India will be only the fifth country to design and build an aircraft carrier weighing 40,000 tonnes or more. The US, Russia, Britain and France currently have the technology and experience.

“Even though the ship has not been commissioned, the hard drive could have critical information like structural details. Information regarding the decks, aircraft fuelling points, weapons hold, wiring, pipeline network, etc., are key structural details,” a former naval officer who served on the erstwhile Vikrant said.

The probe will be carried out under three phases. The probe led by Crime Detachment ACP interrogated a few employees in the shipyard. At the same time, an internal probe on security breach in the shipyard was also initiated. National agencies also started the investigation as the theft was reported in India’s first aircraft carrier.

The construction of the aircraft carrier is under progress at CSL for the last 10 years. The aircraft carrier will be commissioned into Navy in 2021. A fund of Rs 20,000 crore is estimated for the construction. The Central Industrial Security Force is in charge of the security of the aircraft carrier.

The aircraft carrier, which will be named INS Vikrant once commissioned into the Navy, is at present being constructed at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) in Kochi, Kerala.

As per sources, the theft was discovered by staff of CSL on September 16 following which a police complaint was lodged. “The items that have been stolen from the under-construction ship are said to be commercially available electronic products.

No sensitive information pertaining to the national security of the country has been placed on board the under-construction ship. It is yet to be commissioned into the Navy,” a defence source told. All departments are examining the issue as a serious matter. The officials are anxious about such a security breach at CSL.

In 2012, INS Vikramaditya, India’s largest aircraft carrier was spied upon by NATO while the aircraft carrier was being put through sea trials. The incident created a major stir on board the ship and later, the matter was taken up at the diplomatic level too, but the issue was hushed up. Read more about it at INS Vikramaditya’s Surveillance By NATO.

It is by now common knowledge that critical signature details of the Scorpene submarines that we purchased from France were leaked to the whole world before even the first submarine arrived in India. The leak occurred when very irregular companies were used to translate the Submarine’s Documents from French into English. Read more about it in our exclusive book India in Cognitive Dissonance.

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