KOCHI: The theft in the under-construction indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant at Cochin Shipyard here could be far more damaging to the Indian defence system than initially thought.
While an espionage angle is being seriously pursued in the probe, it has now been revealed that the missing hardware belonged to the crucial control system of the vessel.
Top officers said a computer (console), 10 hard disks, three CPUs and processors went missing from Vikrant between August 29 and September 12. What it means is that the theft may have gone unnoticed for almost two weeks — enough time for whoever stole the items to smuggle them to their intended destination.
Considering the seriousness of the incident, central agencies, including the naval and central intelligence wings, have started their own investigations.
The theft was noticed when the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS), a sophisticated control system solution for naval vessels, was activated.
“When the IPMS was switched on, the system did not respond. An inspection revealed that some crucial components were missing,” the complaint filed by the DGM (IAC), Cochin Shipyard, said. Express is in possession of a copy of the complaint.
In all, nine computers contain information about the aircraft carrier, which is under construction at the shipyard.
Of them, hard disks and CPUs were found missing from three computers. Besides, RAM (Random Access Memory), two each from the three computers, and three processors have also gone missing. The estimated cost of the missing electronic digital devices has been pegged at Rs 2.10 lakh, according to shipyard authorities.
The complaint regarding the theft was filed on September 13. Onam holidays were cited as a reason for the delay in filing the complaint.
FIR registered on plaint
The complaint said workers involved in the construction were on leave and hence an examination could not be conducted.
Shipyard authorities said as they had to test other computers as well before ascertaining the theft, it took more time.
Based on the complaint, the police have registered an FIR under Sections 457 (trespassing to commit offence), 461 (dishonestly breaking open receptacle containing property) and 380 (theft) against unidentified persons.
The SIT formed to conduct an investigation is also looking at the involvement of external elements.
Private security agency under scanner
A private security agency based in Thiruvananthapuram, entrusted with the responsibility of providing security to the aircraft carrier, is also under scanner. Top officers said the agency had deployed 82 personnel on security duty.
They frisk visitors and scan their belonging before allowing entry. Private security personnel are entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the movement of the employees and others visiting the ship.
Officers at Cochin Shipyard said Central Industrial Security Force personnel are deployed for quick action. They are required to act only in case of an emergency situation like a terror attack.
What is IPMS
An integrated platform management system (IPMS) is used on board ships and submarines for real-time monitoring and control of the vessel’s hull, mechanical, electrical and damage control machinery and systems.
According to K Bobby Kuruvila, chief engineer of with a foreign vessel, the IPMS controls all activities onboard a ship.
“In naval vessels, weapons and radars are controlled by IPMS. In case of failure of the system, there is a provision for a manual override by which it can be operated manually. If the missing CPU was meant for controlling the communication system of the vessel, it could mean loss of sensitive data,” he said.
It has been noticed that many foreign nationals had visited Cochin Shipyard during the past two months for various purposes.
The CISF personnel posted there to verify the travel documents and purpose of the visit of foreigners.
They also keep records of these documents. These documents will be reexamined by a central intelligence wing.