BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR - Volume 4(2) September-October 2001

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The Sinking of the Ghazi

B. Harry

 

The sinking of the Pakistani submarine Ghazi represents one of the most important events in the history of naval warfare. It not only brings out the difficulties and complexities of Anti-Submarine warfare in reality but also illustrates the brilliant planning, strategy and execution of events by the Indian Navy to put an end to the significant and strategic threat posed by this deadly submarine.    

 In 1963,the US Government approved the transfer of a Tench class submarine, the USS Diablo to the Pakistan Navy on a four-year lease. After an extensive overhaul and conversion to "Fleet Snorkel" configuration, the transfer took place on 1 June 1964.The submarine was renamed "PNS Ghazi"(SS 479) and arrived in Karachi in September 1964.The Ghazi carried 28 21 inch torpedoes and had an incredible range of 11000 miles which meant that she could stay at sea for more than a month at a stretch. With the Ghazi, the Pakistan navy enjoyed a clear advantage over the Indian Navy, which did not operate submarines as yet.

 

  2 Views of the ex-USS 
  Diablo(Click to expand)

  Click here for specifictaions 
  of the Tench class submarine

The Ghazi was deployed by the Pakistan Navy for operations during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. In September 1965, PNS Ghazi was deployed off the Bombay coast with specific orders to attack only the heavier units of the Indian Navy. On 9 September at 1230 hrs, the Indian Navy frigate INS Beas picked up a sonar contact and carried out an attack but the contact was lost soon afterwards. On 11 September, one Alize aircraft flew directly over the Ghazi when she was snorkeling and failed to detect her. Ghazi returned to Karachi to rectify her defective ECM equipment and resumed patrol on 15 September. On 17 September, the Indian Navy sent out 5 escorts to search an area of 5000 square miles in the southern approaches to Bombay and picked up several sonar contacts, which were attacked. However, the Ghazi was unaware of such attacks and hence was assumed to be nowhere near that area. Though the Ghazi in reality caused no damage to the Indian Navy during the war, her 'Record of Service' indicated that she had fired 4 torpedoes on an Indian Type 41 AA frigate, the INS Brahmaputra on 22 September and "heard" 3 hits. Ghazi returned to Karachi on 23 September, where her Captain was undeservingly decorated for having "sunk" the Indian frigate Brahmaputra. However in reality, the Brahmaputra had faced no such attacks and had to be paraded along with other ships of her class to satisfy the media. After the cease-fire, foreign naval attaches from New Delhi were invited onboard the Brahmaputra in Bombay to show that the ship was still afloat and fighting fit. The Indian navy had to wait another 6 years for its revenge!

Thereafter Ghazi's primary role was the ASW training of Pakistan's surface fleet flotilla and the training of submarine personnel to man the new Daphne class submarines being acquired from France. In the end of 1967,the Pakistan Navy applied to the US to renew Ghazi's lease, which was duly approved. During 1966 and 1968, Ghazi's material state deteriorated and arrangements were made to overhaul the submarine in Turkey. After a short refit in Karachi to make the submarine sea-worthy enough, Ghazi sailed for Turkey on 6 March 1968 and arrived back in Karachi on 2 April 1970. Ghazi was also given the capability to carry mines by modifying her torpedo tubes during her overhaul in Turkey.

PNS Ghazi quietly sailed out of Karachi on 14 November 1971 under the command of Cdr Zaffar Mohammed Khan prior to the second Indo-Pakistan war for it's allocated patrol area in the Bay of Bengal. One of the objectives of the Ghazi was to locate and damage or sink the Indian Navy carrier INS Vikrant. The Pakistan navy had to extend it's sphere of operations into Bay of Bengal due to increased Indian naval activity around East Pakistan and the Ghazi was the only one with the range and endurance which could do that.

The trap is set

The deployment of the Ghazi to the Bay of Bengal was revealed to the Indian Navy when a signal addressed to the naval authorities in Chittagong in East Pakistan was intercepted requesting information on a special grade of lubrication oil that was used only by submarines and minesweepers. As minesweepers and the Daphne class submarines did not have the range to operate in the Bay of Bengal, it was assumed that the submarine Ghazi was stalking the Vikrant. Pakistan declared a state of emergency on 24 November 1971. At that time, Vice Admiral N.Krishnan was the Flag officer Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy's eastern Naval Command. From his point of view, it was pretty clear that Pakistan would have deployed the Ghazi in the Bay of Bengal and a part of the pre-emptive strike was an attempt to sink the carrier Vikrant. A part of his plan to counter this awesome contingency was to put in as any deceptive measures as possible. He had already sailed the Fleet away from Madras on November 13 to a secret location known as "Port X-Ray" and was very uneasy in his mind on 24 November being certain that the "Hunter had arrived." Having sailed the fleet away to safety, the major task was to deceive the enemy into thinking that the Vikrant was where she was not and lure the Ghazi to where the Indian Navy would attack her. In Vishakapatnam, more rations were ordered from the contractors to whom it was obvious that this meant that the fleet was present there in Vishakapatnam. Having no doubt that spies existed, the C-in-C was banking on bazaar rumors being picked up by them and being relayed to Pakistan. Special pains were taken to inform the various fishing communities in and around the coastal city of Vishakapatnam to act as special "lookouts" and this meant explaining to them about oil slicks, what a submarine looked like and how to identify telltale evidence etc. Though Vice Admiral Krishnan was not worried about air-attacks, he did not tell anyone that his main cause of worry was the possible mining of harbor entrances and attacks on ships by the Ghazi. The threat from the Ghazi was a considerable one. Apart from the lethal advantage at a pre-emptive stage, the Vikrant's position would be known once she started deploying her aircraft in the vicinity of East Pakistan.

Vice Admiral N.Krishnan, the flag officer C-in-C of the Indian Navy's Eastern Naval command.He is credited with much of the planning of the brilliant deceptive measures used to lure the Ghazi to it's doom.

 

The Indian Navy decided to use the old destroyer INS Rajput as a decoy to try and decieve the Pakistanis into believing that the Vikrant was somewhere in or around Vishakapatnam. The Rajput was sailed to proceed about 160 miles off Vishakapatnam and was given a large number of signals with instructions that she should clear the same from the sea. Heavy wireless traffic is one means for the enemy to suspect the wherabouts of a large ship in the area. The Indian Navy intentionally breached security by making an unclassified signal in the form of a private Telegram allegedly from one of Vikrant's sailor's asking about the welfare of his mother who was "seriously ill". Later on, it was revealed that the Indian Navy's deception plan worked only too well!

The bait is taken

The Ghazi was 400 miles off Bombay on November 16,off Ceylon on November 19 and entered the Bay of Bengal on November 20,1971.She started looking for the Vikrant on November 23 off Madras but was not aware that she was 10 days too late and the Vikrant was actually somewhere near the Andaman islands. Vice Admiral Krishnan sent for Lt.Inder Singh, the Commanding officer of the Rajput for detailed briefing at about 1600 hrs on December 1st and told him that a Pakistani submarine had been sighted off Ceylon and was absolutely certain that the submarine would be somewhere around Madras/Vishakaptanm. He made it clear that once Rajput had completed refueling, she must leave the harbor with all navigational aids switched off. Once clear of the harbor, he had to assume that an enemy submarine was in the vicinity. He was told that if the deception plan had worked, the Ghazi would be prowling about, looking for the Vikrant and in the darkness, she may mistake one of the merchantmen for the carrier and have a go or could be laying a mine-field. Due to the total blackout and navigational hazards, the submarine may even make the mistake of surfacing. The Rajput was supposed to be out of the harbor as soon as possible and along the way, it could drop a few depth charges at random. The Rajput sailed out on 2 December and returned to Vishakapatnam on 3 December and again sailed out with a pilot on board, just before the midnight of 3/4 December and on clearing the harbor, proceeded along the narrow entrance channel. When the ship was halfway in the channel, it suddenly occurred to the Captain that "What if the Pakistani submarine was waiting outside the harbor and torpedoes us as we disembark the pilot who was on board, at the Outer Channel Buoy?" He immediately ordered to stop engines and disembarked the pilot. He slowly increased speed to maximum by the time he reached the Outer channel buoy. Shortly after clearing the Outer channel buoy at about midnight 3/4 December, a sonar contact was obtained. The starboard lookout reported a disturbance of water, fine on the starboard bow. The captain rightly assumed that it must be a submarine diving and fired 2 depth charges at that position and proceeded. At exactly 0015 hrs two tremendous and simultaneous explosions were heard by the Coast battery, which reported it to the maritime operations room. The explosions shattered quite a few windowpanes around the coast. The Rajput got a heavy jolt after the deafening blasts. Several thousand people who were waiting to hear the Prime Minister's broadcast to the nation also heard the explosions and many came out thinking that it was an earthquake. In the early hours of 4th December 1971,the Command diving team was rushed to the spot to commence detailed investigations. Fishermen also reported some oil patches and flotsam as per the Navy's arrangement with them. The divers confirmed the presence of a submerged object at a depth of about 150 feet of water. Several floating objects and debris, all of them with American markings were picked up and though Vice Admiral Krishnan told the Chief of Naval staff that he was personally convinced that they had bagged the Ghazi, he demanded more 'ocular proof’. By 5 December, divers had identified the submerged object from the silhouette and other characteristics and confirmed without a shell of a doubt that the sunken object was none other than the wreck of the PNS Ghazi. On the 3rd day, a diver managed to open the conning tower hatch and one dead body was recovered. It took a phenomenal amount of courage to enter this hellhole with rotting flesh all around the divers in the darkness. It was also quite a job to clear the bloated dead bodies from the hatch to make an entrance. The Hydrographic correction book of the PNS Ghazi and one sheet of paper with the official seal of the Commanding Officer of the Ghazi were recovered and all the evidence was flown to New Delhi, the next morning. Thereafter, the news of the sinking hit headlines and congratulations were being poured in from all over.

Debris and other remnants of the Ghazi  brought up by Naval divers

The following signals were recovered from the Ghazi:

* FROM COMSUBS TO SUBRON-5 INFO PAK NAVY DTG 221720 NOV 71
   FOLLOWING AREAS OCCUPIED:
   1.PAPA ONE,TO,THREE,FOUR.
   2.PAPA FIVE,SIX,SEVEN,EIGHT.
   3.BRAVO ONE,TWO,THREE,FOUR,FIVE,SIX.
   4.MIKE
* FROM COMSUBS TO GHAZI MANGRO INFO PAK NAVY DTG 222117 NOV 71
   ARM ALL TORPEDOES.
* FROM COMSUBS TO SUBRON-5 INFO PAK NAVY DTG 231905 NOV 71
   ASSUME PRECAUTIONARY STAGE
* FROM COMSUBS TO GHAZI INFO PAK NAVY DTG 252307/NOV 71
   OCCUPY ZONE VICOTR WITH ALL DISPATCH
   INTELLIGENCE INDICATES CARRIER IN PORT.

What caused the sinking?

The official version of the Indian Navy is that the Ghazi was sunk by the Rajput's depth charges at around midnight of 3/4 December. However, there have been several opposing theories put forward mainly due to the confusion of dates and when the Rajput sailed out on it's mission which led analysts to conclude that the Rajput was nowhere near when the explosions took place. There have been some recollections by officers that the explosions actually occurred on 2/3 December. Lt H Dhingra of the Indian submarine rescue vessel, Nistar said that the explosions had been reported to him on 1/2 December. Though, it was later confirmed without doubt that the Ghazi exploded at 00:15 hrs on 3/4 December when the Rajput sailed out, consideration of these varying reports led to a theory that the Ghazi was actually sunk by accidentally detonating one of it's own mines when it was laying a mine-field. Ghazi presumably had commenced laying mines on 3 December 1971 and at least 2-3 mines were laid in close proximity in a linear pattern 150 meters apart and at a depth of about 30 meters. These mines had a "ship count" mechanism meaning that the mine would arm only after a preset number of ships or submarines had passed overhead. It was also possible that the Rajput's depth charges had caused the mines to arm and was ready to claim their victim, friend or foe. It has been well established that the position where the depth charges were launched was almost exactly where the wreck of the Ghazi was found so damage to the latter by the charges was almost inevitable. The clock recovered from the wreck of the Ghazi had stopped functioning at exactly 00:15 hrs, which was around 10-15 minutes after the charges were launched. However, on interrogation, the divers revealed that the hull had been blown outwards, probably due an internal explosion. One of the causes for this could have been a Hydrogen explosion, which may occur while recharging of the batteries, but if this were the case, the bodies found in the Ghazi would have been charred a lot more. Also, the possibility of an external mine causing the sinking was completely ruled out due to the amount of internal damage suffered and the forward section of the hull being splayed outward. It is more probable that there was an internal fire in the forward area where the torpedoes and mines were stored and near the torpedo tubes that ultimately sealed the fate of the Ghazi. But what caused the internal explosion? The most probable chain of events that occurred is listed below:

1.  Ghazi being unable to locate the Vikrant around Vishakapatnam commenced laying mines on the night
     of 3rd December 1971 when Pakistan signalled the commencement of  hostilities.
2.  At about midnight 3/4 December,Ghazi came up to periscope depth to establish her naviagtional position which was
     made very difficult due to the blackout and switching off of all navigational aids.She must have also been in the
     process of laying a mine.
3.  At this point of time,she saw or heard a destroyer approaching her at high speed at an almost reciprocal
     course and went  into a steep dive and at the same time put her rudder hard over in order to getaway seaward.
4.  The Captain of the Destroyer Rajput noticed the disturbance of water caused due to the hasty dive and launched
     2 depth charges at that position.
5.  The charges detonated in the proximity of the Ghazi,agitating the submarine that was already in a steep dive
     and a fire broke out due to the charges' direct detonation or the detonation caused the Ghazi to hit the shallow
     seabed hard when it bottomed.
6.  The fire spread to where the Mines and torpedoes were stored and these blew the forward hull outward.
7.  It is also possible that the detonation of the charges triggered a mine that was being kept in a ready state
     near the torpedo tube.
 

Illustration courtesy of Vice Admiral GM Hiranandhini PVSM AVSM NM

  The reconstructed track chart
   the Ghazi from 14 November
   to 3 December 1971.
   Click to expand

Whatever caused the Ghazi to explode, it was nevertheless, the Indian Navy's ingenuity and deceptive planning that caused the submarine to a follow a preset path which ended in a watery grave for it's 82 sailors on board. Without the Ghazi, the Pakistan navy could not interfere with the Vikrant's operations in East Pakistan. A signal transmitted from Karachi to the Ghazi recovered from the wreck read "Intelligence indicates carrier in port, proceed to Vishakapatnam with all dispatch!" Both the United States and the Soviet Union made offers to raise the submarine at their own expense, but this was turned down by the Government of India, which deliberately allowed the submarine to sink into the soft mud off the fairway buoy of Vishakapatnam. FOC-in-C East immediately broadcast to his forces that a "Dead submarine lay at his doorstep" and followed it up with a signal to the Eastern fleet which read 'Attack, Attack, Attack'. 


References

  1. Vice Admiral Mihir K Roy (Retd.) PVSM AVSM,"War in the Indian Ocean",SPANTECH & LANCER 1995
  2. Vice Admiral N.Krishnan (Retd.) PVSM AVSM,"No way but surrender-An account of Indo-pak war in the Bay of Bengal 1971"
  3. "Story of the Pakistan Navy",Naval HQ,Islamabad ,1991
  4. Vice Admiral GM Hiranandhini (Retd.) NM,PVSM,AVSM,"Transition to triumph - Indian Navy 1965-75", Lancer International

Copyright Bharat Rakshak 2001