BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR - Volume 4(4) January-February 2002

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Trident, Grandslam and Python: Attacks on Karachi 

B. Harry        

"Well old boy,this happens in war.I am sorry your ships have been sunk"
- C-in-C PAF to his naval counterpart in 1971

"This is the best Diwali we've ever seen!"
- The attacking force,"Trishul"

Pakistan's Naval headquarters was based at the historic and strategic port of Karachi here almost their entire fleet was concentrated. Karachi not only represented the area of maximum strategic importance, but also was also critical for Pakistan’s external trade and maritime interests, meaning that a blockade would be disastrous for Pakistan’s economy. For these reasons, the port received some of the best defence Pakistan had to offer as well as cover from strike aircraft based at two airfields in the proximity. However, this did not stop the Indian Navy from knocking on Pakistan's doorstep and blasting Karachi in some of the most audacious, brilliantly planned and executed operations in the history of naval warfare which shocked the world. The offensive stance taken, the role played and the amount of damage done, by the Indian Navy was quite a different story from that of its lack of performance during the 1965 Indo-Pak conflict. After Pakistan declared a national emergency on 23 Nov 1971,3 Osa-I class missile boats were deployed at Okha to carry out patrols from which they gained valuable experience. The task force assigned to attack Karachi harbour comprised of 4 Missile boats each armed with 4 SS-N-2B Styx anti-ship missiles and 2 Petya class sub-chasers. One of the 4 missile boats was to remain on patrol off Dwarka to provide cover for the task force on it's way back The reason for selecting these small untried Osa-I missile boats over regular vessels was due to the fact that they would represent difficult, fast moving targets and would enable the operation to be carried out in complete stealth. The Petyas were mainly to provide communication and control and give indication of suitable targets with their superior radar as well as possible ASW cover.

The plan was to strike Karachi with a composite force on the very day that Pakistan carried out its first acts of war. Pakistan attacked Indian airfields on the evening of the 3rd of December but since it was not possible to attack on the same evening, the attacks were planned for the night of 4/5 December which was to be coordinated with simultaneous aerial bombardment from the IAF. However, the Osa-I missile boats, built specifically for coastal defence did not have the range and endurance to carry out any sort of long range offensive operations hence was evolved the tactical decision to tow them to a certain point south of Karachi harbour from where they would proceed at full speed to carry out the attack. The squadron commander embarked on one of the attacking vessels would allocate targets and the missile boats would thereafter act independently, keeping in touch with the Squadron commander. The Petyas were to follow at a slower speed but stay not too far away from the rendezvous. Naval Headquarters and the HQ of the Western naval command were to listen in on Pakistani wireless circuits and pass the relevant intelligence to the force. The excellent photos of Karachi brought back by the IAF's No.106 Strategic PR Squadron were an invaluable asset for the operation. Another unusual asset was the fluency of the Indian crew in the Russian language, which was chosen to be taught to the Indian sailors who were deputed for training in the Soviet Union in order to ease the entire process. Indeed, communication between the attacking vessels was extensively in Russian, which proved to be extremely useful. These unique innovations introduced into the operations by the Indian Navy ensured their success in advance.

Operation Trident

The first missile attack on Karachi was to be undertaken by the "Killer" squadron comprising of the following 3 Osa missile boats:


INS Nipat (Lt Cdr B.N Kavina VrC)

INS Nirghat (Lt. Cdr I.J Sharma,AVSM,VrC )

INS Veer (Lt Cdr O.P Mehta VrC NM)

 
The Squadron commander (K-25) B.B Yadav was embarked on the Nipat. At the last minute, the Petya class vessel INS Kadmat(Cdr Tony Jain) who had been exercising with the "Killer" squadron, was replaced by INS Kiltan(Cdr K.P Gopal Rao MVC VSM) who had not worked up with the squadron and could only rendezvous with them at sea on 3 Dec.1971.On the afternoon of 4 Dec.1971,"Operation Trident" began and the strike group was on it's way to Karachi and remained in company. An oiler, INS Poshak was positioned about halfway to the target and refueled the strike force and enabled them to carry on. As per plan, the fourth missile boat INS Vidyut remained well astern to act as a deterrent in case of a counter attack by Pakistani warships. The "Killers" proceeded in an arrowhead formation, stealthily at a speed of about 24 knots with the Nipat leading and the Nirghat five miles on the port quarter and the Veer lagging behind on starboard. A number of contacts were detected en-route but were eventually analyzed as undeserving of a missile attack. Kiltan continued to pick up contacts at longer ranges due to anomalous propagation. At about 1945 hrs, Kiltan's radar picked up a Pakistani reconnaissance aircraft and immediately altered the course of the Task group westwards and succeeded in misleading the aircraft. Once the radar was clear of aircraft echo, course was altered to northward again. At 2000 hrs, Kiltan picked up a surface contact on a northeasterly bearing, steering an intercept course. When it closed in to about 15 miles, the Task group's course was again altered westward in order to prevent the contact from closing in further. After a while, the contact reduced its speed and its radar echo became smaller and disappeared. Course was again altered northward at 2014 hrs and formation speed was increased to 28 knots.

 

When about 70 miles south of Karachi, a firm contact was detected to the northwest at a distance of about 45 miles and a second contact to the northeast at a range of 42 miles, heading for Karachi.K-25 evaluated the first contact to be a warship closing in at about 20 knots. This was the Pakistani destroyer Khaibar which was reportedly on patrol and somehow failed to receive orders to investigate possible contacts south of Karachi. Khaibar was also said to have intercepted a HF transmission at 1905 hrs emanating from a south-easterly direction but could not decipher the language.K-25 ordered Nirghat to alter course and engage the northwesterly contact. When Nirghat saw the destroyer coming straight at the force, she had to reverse course and complete pre-launch checks before taking the shot. Nirghat altered to port and launched an SS-N-2B Styx AsHM followed by another one a little later. Khaibar observed a 'bright light' approaching her from her starboard beam and sounded action stations and engaged the target with her Bofors guns, mistaking it to be an aircraft. The missile struck Khaibar on the starboard side and exploded below the aft galley in the Electrician's mess deck at about 2245 hrs, Pakistan time. The ship immediately lost propulsion, plunged into darkness and the No.1 Boiler room exploded, engulfing the ship in thick black smoke. Khaibar sent out an emergency transmission which read "Enemy aircraft attacked in position 020 FF 20.No 1 Boiler hit. Ship stopped." which meant that the Pakistan Navy did not even know what hit them. At about 2249 hrs, the second missile was seen approaching and again engaged in vain as it exploded into the No.2 Boiler room on the starboard side and sealed the fate of the Khaibar forever. On the bridge of the Nipat,K-25 watched eagerly as the radar contact on his screen slowly diminished and suddenly disappeared. The Pakistani ocean going minesweeper PNS Muhafiz arrived in her patrol area at 2245 hrs and witnessed the missile attack. Nipat then engaged the second contact and a third contact and fired a missile on each of these contacts at about 2300 hrs(IST), which were the Merchant vessel Venus challenger and the destroyer PNS Shahjahan respectively. The Venus challenger was completely darkened and proceeding at 16 knots. The Styx AShM struck the ship and a huge flash was seen and evaluated to be ammunition exploding. The ship broke into two and sank in less than 8 minutes, about 26 miles south of Karachi. After the war, it was reliably learnt from merchant shipping circles and Bangladeshis who deserted the Pakistan navy as well as Military attaches of foreign embassies in Pakistan that this ship was carrying a near full load of US ammunition from Saigon for the Pakistani Army and Air force which made it a target even more valuable than a warship. It was due to arrive at Karachi at 0130 hrs on 5 Dec.1971.In addition to the ship's crew, the ship was also reported to have a number of Pakistani naval officers and sailors onboard for communication and ordnance duties. The second Styx is reported to have struck the Pakistani destroyer Shahjahan crippling it beyond service though there is some controversy surrounding this. As per some Pakistani admissions, the Shahjahan was damaged beyond recognition and put out of service but their official history makes no mention of the attack and official Pakistani naval sources have given varying accounts. At one point, it is claimed that damage to Shahjahan and sinking of the merchant(Venus Challenger) are Indian exaggerations but at another point, they are baffled by the mysterious disappearance of the Venus challenger and finally conclude that it must have been sunk in the Indian attacks. But there have also been several Indian sources such as FOCINCWEST Vice Admiral Kohl who recall that both missiles fired by the Nipat homed onto the Venus challenger. Nevertheless, the squadron commander(K-25) B.B Yadav confirmed the engagement of two separate contacts and the supporting Petyas were able to intercept a message ordering the Shahjahan to assist Khaibar but the Shahjahan replied that she could not do so due to some problems!

Styx unleashed during the attack!

By this time, the port of Karachi was about 32 miles away and clearly painting on radar. The missile boat Veer reported a contact(Muhafiz) fine on her starboard bow and was ordered by K-25 to engage it. Veer fired a Styx AShM at the contact at about 2320 hrs(IST).As Muhafiz altered course southward, the burning wreck of the Khaibar could be seen on the horizon. Action stations were closed up as the ship headed for the scene of action. She was on a course 210 degrees, speed 9 knots, when she observed a third bright light heading straight for the ship at 2305 (Pakistan Time).The Styx missile hit the Muhafiz on the port side abaft the bridge and instantaneously disintegrated the vessel, throwing much of it's crew into the water. There was not even enough time to transmit a distress message. The ship's debris continued to burn for 70 minutes while the survivors floated around. At this stage, there were no more contacts to engage. The fear of a Pakistani air attack started to place itself in the minds of the attacking force when several anti aircraft tracer shells fired by Karachi's port defenses were mistook be to be aircraft when they were picked up by radar and it took some time for this confusion to clear. At about 2325 hrs, Nirghat reported sighting aircraft on top of her  though the Kiltan did not detect any. The task group was then ordered to assume the first degree of anti-aircraft readiness and was required to navigate to a predetermined point 9 to10 miles ahead. However, by this time, the distance between the three missile boats had opened out and the factors of time and distance precluded the two other boats from rejoining the Nipat which was already ahead. At 2320 hrs,K-25,therefore,ordered the boats to act individually and withdraw to rendezvous as planned with the tanker Poshak. Due to a fade in communications, Kiltan did not receive the message.

Nipat however, continued towards Karachi and when she was about 14 miles from the harbor, and for the first time, she locked on to a shore target and fired a Styx missile at it, in the direction of the entrance. Never before was a missile, purely designed for Anti-ship duties used for land attack. Nipat launched a second Styx, which sadly misfired. This missile traveled westward of Karachi and crashed into the sea. The first Styx scored a direct hit on one of the giant Keamari oil tanks, one minute before midnight, spreading massive lethal flames in all directions, which spread to the other tanks. An huge explosion shot up over the horizon. It must be noted that, at this time, the IAF was also carrying out a coordinated attack on Karachi. The IAF had been attacking Karachi since 0800 hrs in spaced intervals. At around 2200 hrs, IAF Canberras commenced bombing* Drigh Road near Karachi as well as fuel installations and oil tanks. From a distance,K-25 watched the once mighty port of Karachi burn like hell after being engulfed in explosive flames. Radio silence was broken to transmit the code "Angar" which meant the successful completion of Operation Trident, which was received at MOR Bombay amidst great jubilation. Thereafter, strict radio silence was maintained.

At this stage, Kiltan arrived at the predetermined point only to find out that all the other boats except Veer had turned around to head home. Veer had experienced machinery problems and had to reduce speed to effect repairs. Kiltan then turned around to head home at high speed but this made Veer to assume that Kiltan was an enemy vessel. Fortunately, by this time, Veer's engines were repaired and communication was reestablished. Both Kiltan and Nipat had their fair share of problems as well. At about 0045 hrs, one of Kiltan's gas turbine engines failed. The second gas turbine engine failed at around 0130 hrs. Kiltan was now running on her main diesel engine and her speed came down to 13 knots. Nipat, having come closest to Karachi, needed to take evasive maneuvers during the withdrawal phase. At this juncture, one of Nipat's lubrication oil hosepipes gave way, reducing her speed to just 7 knots. After about 2 hours, repairs were effected and Nipat increased speed to 30 knots keeping well below the maximum of 45 knots in order to avoid the recurrence of the hosepipe failure. Further, to stay out of the attack range of Pakistani aircraft, Nipat altered course by 90 degrees towards Aden and only when well clear of the air route from Karachi to Bombay, altered back to rendezvous with the tanker Poshak. This detour consumed additional fuel, which began to run low. However, Nipat continued, thanks to the ingenuity of her engineers who took out and transferred the pump oil to run the engines and manually transferred unpumpable fuel from one tank to another. After replenishing with Poshak on 5 December, Nipat continued towards Bombay. Kiltan arrived at Mangrol at about 1800 hrs on 5 December. All boats had been accounted for except Nipat, which was presumed sunk. After completion of refueling, Kiltan was to sail the task group to Bombay. However, Kiltan's diesel engine failed to start and she became immobile. Therefore, the commander detached the other Petya - Katchall and the missile boats to proceed to Bombay where they arrived on the evening of 6 December. Kiltan stayed overnight at Mangrol and after getting one gas turbine working by the morning, she arrived in Bombay on the night of 7 December 1971.Nipat arrived home sometime later to receive a hero's welcome.

The first kill, PNS Khaibar, Battle class destroyer 
 Another victim,the PNS Shahjahan

Karachi was in a mess. It took some time for the Pakistanis to pull themselves together and figure out that it was a missile attack that had sunk their ships and not an aerial attack. Perhaps the IAF's simultaneous bombardment of Karachi, especially her oil tanks, which had also been hit by a missile, added to the confusion. The attention of the controlling authorities ashore was distracted towards the threat of an aerial attack once too often to the extent that all warnings given by the tracker radar installed at PNS Qasim near Manora, were largely ignored. Since the destroyer Shahjahan could not, Maritime headquarters at Karachi directed the gunboat Sadaqat to look for Khaibar's survivors. It was nearly midnight of 4 December when Sadaqat steered towards the glow over the horizon and came upon the survivors of Muhafiz and only now was it learnt that the Muahfiz had been destroyed. They returned back to harbour in the early hours of 5 December without locating Khaibar's survivors. The rescue operation launched to locate Khaibar's survivors was a disjointed and haphazard effort. The incorrect position of Khaibar indicated in her last signal led he search to be centered more than 20 miles away from her wreck. In the early hours of 5 December, another search operation was executed. After several failed attempts, a life raft containing some survivors was finally located at 1555 hrs and by 1745,the survivors were recovered. On the way back to the harbour,4 more survivors were picked up. A second search effort, which was mounted at 1425 hrs, was abandoned at 1913 hrs after yielding no results. By this time, the search had in any case become redundant as the remaining survivors had been picked up the gunboat Sadaqat a few hours earlier.

A warehouse near Drigh Road exploding during an IAF attack

Immediately after the attack, when it was calculated that the retreating missile boats would take around 6 hours to reach their nearest sanctuary, the PAF commanding officer was approached to order an attack them. However, no air strike could be made available and the PAF in Karachi did not react to the Navy's request. Therefore, the C-in-C of the Pakistani navy rang up the C-in-C PAF at 0400 hours and woke him up. After all sorts of begging and pleading, the answer he obtained was "Well old boy, this happens in war. I am sorry your ships have been sunk. We shall try to do something in the future!”. On the morning of 5 December, the Air Priority Board of Karachi provided an assorted bunch of aircraft including Cessnas, Aero club Austers, Dakotas, Fokkers, Twin Otters with radar and even a light plant protection aircraft for surveillance. This assorted Fleet air arm was flown by civilian pilots with naval liaison officers and by the afternoon,3 to 4 aircraft were airborne, searching an arc of 200 miles from Karachi. In the early hours of 6 December, a false alarm was raised when a Fokker Friendship aircraft with naval observers onboard, reported missile boat activity in the area west of Cape Monze on the Pakistani coast. NHQ Karachi asked the PAF to carry out an air strike on a ship, which had been identified as a missile boat. What was thought to be a missile boat was actually the Pakistan navy frigate Zulfiquar. Ironically, Zulfiquar had been informed by MHQ that a PAF sortie was on its way to attack a missile boat in the area. At 0640,PAF aircraft arrived and strafed the Zulfiquar, which took 900 hits of 0.5-inch ammo that killed several officers and sailors and injured many more! The attack was broken off when the ship's frantic efforts to get herself identified as a friendly unit succeeded. The frigate also suffered damage to her upper deck. It makes one wonder how both the Pakistani naval observers and the PAF pilots displayed such a level of incompetence that they couldn’t even tell the difference between a small PT-15 missile boat and a large frigate(of their own)!The ship was in anchor and not even going anywhere! After the attack, it was decided to move the Pakistani fleet further inshore.

The Second Attack         

The Indian Navy's western fleet sailed out of Bombay on 2 December to operate in their assigned area. Two missile boats had been allotted to the Fleet, which were to be in tow, by the ships of the fleet. These boats would be released to carry out their attacks either on enemy surface units or on ships in or around Karachi. Any missiles left over after the destruction of enemy units were to be directed towards the neutralization of shore targets. As usual, several machinery and material state problems were encountered. The frigate Kuthar suffered a major blow up in the engine room and the missile boat Vijeta suffered a breakdown on the same day after sailing from Bombay. Kuthar was towed back to Bombay by the frigate Kirpan escorted by the frigate Khukri and Vijeta was towed back by the ship Sagardeep. When the fleet sailed, the Pakistani submarine Hangor had reportedly sighted them. During the first few days, a number of ships picked up sonar contacts, which were attacked but were unable to find any evidence of actual damage to a submarine. On the afternoon of 3 December, the fleet observed reconnaissance aircraft circling around it, taking good care to remain out of gun range. Whilst they were tracking the snoopers, they received the signal that hostilities with Pakistan had commenced!

It was evaluated that the information relayed back to the Pakistan by the enemy submarines and aircraft would give them a reasonably accurate position of the fleet. Therefore FOCWEF decided to split the force into two divergent groups under the cover of darkness in order to shake off the snoopers. This was successfully achieved by midnight. However, this split had taken the fleet so far south that the first planned simultaneous attacks on Karachi and the Makran coast had to be postponed. On 5 December, the fleet group regrouped, refueled and replenished. On the midnight of 5/6 December,FOCWEF detached two groups of ships - one group to attack Karachi and the other group to attack the Makran coast. Due to a last minute defect, the frigate Talwar had to drop out of the Karachi strike group. On the afternoon of 6 December, Naval headquarters(NHQ) at Bombay decided to assume control of operations, reasons for which were not given.NHQ made a signal at about 1600 hours canceling the attack on Karachi scheduled for the night of 6/7 December. It was learnt that on the morning of 6 December, NHQ had intercepted a Pakistani signal which indicated that the PAF had blasted one of it's own warships, the frigate Zulfiquar. This caused a considerable amount of concern in the mind of CNS Admiral Nanda who assessed that it would not be prudent to expose the Karachi strike group to such a high probability of attack by an alert enemy. Since Karachi had already been attacked on the night of 4/5 December, it could be attacked again somewhat later. The Fleet was then ordered to rendezvous with the vessel Tir off the Saurashtra coast to pick up a second missile boat, the Vidyut, which was to substitute for Vijeta. As the fleet sped towards the rendezvous point, Tir broke radio silence in order to relay her position and to report enemy aircraft. On the morning of 7 December, the fleet had assembled at the rendezvous but Tir and Vidyut had not yet reached. Had the enemy D/F'ed the signals made by Tir and ordered an air strike, it was highly probable that the attacking aircraft might by chance locate and attack the western fleet. After intercepting a Pakistani transmission,FOCINWEST signaled Tir to "prepare to repel and air attack" and the IAF was called in to protect the Tir group from an air attack. At this stage, the missile boat Vidyut which was being towed by Tir to hand over to the Fleet, started reporting defects which required her to return to Bombay. After evaluating the situation and the keeping in mind the intense surveillance by the enemy to detect the approach of missile boats, FOCWEF decided to launch the second missile attack on Karachi from West-Southwest altered the fleet's course westward. Radio silence was broken more than once to exchange signals regarding the second missile attack. FOCINWEST ordered FOCWEF to execute "Operation Python”, the second missile attack on Karachi on the night of 7/8 December, if feasible. However, boisterous weather conditions were reported by the Flag Captain Russi Gandhi which further postponed the attack on Karachi to the night of 8/9 when the weather improved. On 8 December,FOCWEF split his force into three groups. The first group consisted of the fast frigates of the 15th frigate squadron, INS Trishul and Talwar which were to escort the single missile boat Vinash for the second attack on Karachi. The second group consisted of the cruiser Mysore accompanied by the frigate Betwa and the destroyer Ranjit to raid the Makran coast. The third group consisted of the tanker Deepak and the vessel Kadmat that were to continue contraband control.Kadmat had dropped out of the Karachi strike group due to a last minute defect.

Operation Grandslam

On 8 December 1971,after the second attack on Karachi "Operation python" was executed, FOCWEF handed over tactical command to the cruiser INS Mysore for the bombardment of the Pakistani coast of Makran on the night of 8/9 December with the intention "to burn, to sink, to destroy" Pakistani installations and vessels and this was to coincide with the missile attack on Karachi. The taskforce comprising of the cruiser Mysore, the destroyer Ranjit and the frigate Betwa headed for the Makran coast to carry out Operation "Grand Slam".

On the evening of 8 December,75 miles south of the Pakistani coastal city of Jiwani, the group encountered a merchant ship who, on seeing the approaching group reversed course and headed for Karachi and was heard calling Karachi on a frequency being monitored. The ship did not comply when she was signaled to stop so Mysore and Ranjit fired a broadside ahead of her, which forced the ship to stop engines, switch on her lights and raise a white flag. The destroyer Ranjit was sent to investigate and revealed the ship to be the Pakistani merchant vessel "Madhumati" originally bound for Singapore with a large cargo of Basmati Rice. The ship had overprinted her name to read "Adamant" to masquerade as a neutral ship registered in Manila. The ship was boarded and instructed to raise the Indian Naval Ensign superior to the Pakistani flag. FOCWEF assessed that the Madhumati's call to Karachi would have without doubt, not only given away the approaching task force but also distracted attention from the group on their way to carry out "Operation Python”. This was confirmed when Pakistani aircraft were sighted soon after sunset, circling with their lights on but staying out of gun range. FOCWEF thus abandoned the bombardment of the Makran coast and instructed the task force to return to Bombay along with the Madhumati.

  This incident resulted in a lot of disappointment due to the fact that the fleet was robbed of its glory and denied the satisfaction of avenging the Pakistani raid on Dwarka in 1965. However, FOCWEF decided that the bombardment of a number of useless targets in the Makran coast just to give the fleet the satisfaction of firing their guns in anger and to provoke the Pakistani navy to "Come out and fight" was not worth the risks and it was better to enhance the chances of success of the more important second missile attack on Karachi by drawing away attention.

Operation Python

The missile boat Vinash escorted by the frigates Talwar and Trishul set course for Karachi at high speed. En route, electronic emissions were detected on a Pakistan Naval frequency, which were being monitored. It was appreciated that a vessel with a powerful transmitter was reporting the presence of the force to Maritime headquarters Karachi. The vessel was soon sighted and Talwar opened fire with her 4.5-inch guns and then closed in with 40mm guns, blasting the communication craft to pieces. During the approach to Karachi, Trishul's electronic surveillance reported that the radar at Karachi had stopped rotating and was pointed directly at the group! At 2300 hrs, the group arrived off Karachi and detected a group of ships on radar. At 2315 IST, Vinash requested permission to engage her targets after a temporary radar breakdown. FOCWEF had already told the CO of the Trishul that Vinash should fire all her 4 missiles. When around 12 miles off Karachi, after some careful calculation, Vinash fired all her 4 Styx AShHM at her contacts,3 of which were ships and the other a coastal target. It was pre-arranged that the IAF would once again attack Karachi's airfields at Masroor and Drigh Road at the same time as the second missile attack. However, the Trishul group had commenced attacks before the pre-arranged time but the air attack commenced soon thereafter.

At this time, most of the Pakistani surface fleet had been recalled to harbour after coast hugging anti-submarine operations and were taking shelter among the civilian, cargo and merchant vessels in an attempt to shield them against missile attacks. However, the Pakistani navy fleet tanker, the PNS Dacca remained in anchorage at Manora because tidal conditions and its deep draft had complicated matters and prevented its entry to harbour. Dacca was among the cluster of about a dozen ships at Manora anchorage at which Vinash had just delivered her missiles. The first Styx missile flew over the ships in anchorage, crossed Manora Island and traveled parallel to the breakwater. When it was abreast the AA school, it turned right and scored a direct hit on an oil tank at the Keamari oil farm, which burst into flames. Following a huge explosion, the flames shot up so high that the Qatar house - a multi storey building in the city, was clearly visible. The fires caused by the previous attacks had just been put out a day earlier after 3 continuous days of concentrated fire fighting and had now made their presence felt once again after a very short-lived respite. PNS Dacca had witnessed the missile attack first hand but once again, mistook it for an air attack and search lights were switched on to locate the aircraft. A little while later, another light(the second Styx) was sighted coming from the same direction and hit a ship that was anchored very close to the breakwater, exploding and sinking it immediatly.At that moment, action stations were sounded and guns were manned to engage any target. In the meantime, the third Styx appeared and traveled to the ship at the southern corner of the anchorage. Following another explosive hit, the ship caught fire. The two victims were the British vessel - Harmattan and the Panamanian vessel -Gulfstar.

A little while, PNS Dacca observed the fourth and final Styx was seen coming up from behind the horizon in the form of a bright light and was gaining height on the port bow. It appeared stationary for sometime and suddenly rushed steeply towards the ship and was engaged unsuccessfully by the port guns. The Styx hit the tanker on the port side, piercing No.7 port FFO tank just above the water line. The cargo and jungle decks were ripped open and the motorboat and spare fuel hoses caught fire. Abandon ship was piped immediately. Only about 8 officers and 37 CPOs and sailors stayed onboard and the rest jumped overboard. The fires in the upper deck were eventually brought under control but the Dacca retained extensive damage. The Pakistani minesweeper Munsif, which was anchored in the vicinity of the Dacca proceeded to assist her and picked up some survivors. Other survivors and personnel of the Dacca and the other ships were recovered by auxiliary craft, which were promptly dispatched to the scene. Nearly six minutes after the first missile blew up the Keamari oil tank, a tremendous barrage of fire was let loose by Karachi's AA guns following an air raid warning and lifting of gun restrictions. More blasts followed as more and more Oil tanks exploded after being engulfed in the spreading fires. However, there was no real air activity over the harbour itself. In panic, Karachi’s guns set ablaze and sunk an unfortunate Greek ship - ZoŽ, which is mentioned in Lloyd's casualty list. The actual targets of the IAF were Drigh Road and Masroor. After skirting the radar stations of Badin and Talhar as per tactical routing, Canberras from IAF's No.35 squadron attacked Drigh Road. The attack on Masroor airbase had stranded Pakistani bombers from taking off as a culvert leading from the dispersal to the runway was destroyed. The Wing commander who was leading the first section stated that he found untouched aluminum oil tanks which were not designated targets as simply too tempting. He therefore released his 1000 lb MC bombs from a height of 7500 feet, to avoid AA fire, onto a cluster of oil tanks. More explosions added to the havoc. In the meantime, the Trishul strike force quietly slipped away undetected. Lieutenant Commander Jerath of the missile boat Vinash on climbing out of the 'citadel' to the open bridge, observed the horizon light up and received a message from Trishul: 'This is the best Diwali we've ever seen!'' Air strikes continued till 0200 hrs on 9 December to give the task force enough time to get away. During the withdrawal phase, Vinash reported defects and had to stop but before the need arose for her to be taken back in tow, she had effected repairs and withdrew at high speed to rendezvous with the fleet on 9 December. On the morning of 10 December, cumulative defects were beginning to reduce the speed of the ships after 8 days of steaming at high speed. FOCWEF decided that the fleet should return to Bombay to effect repairs, pick up two more missile boats and return to the operational area. To outflank Pakistani submarines deployed off Bombay, FOCWEF maintained absolute wireless silence, made landfall well south of Bombay and proceeded up the coast inside the 10-fathom line, through waters too shallow for the operation of submarines. The fleet arrived in Bombay in the early hours of 13 December, unscratched. By the time they were ready to sail again, the Pakistan Army in the East had unconditionally surrendered on 16 December.  

All illustrations courtesy of Vice Admiral(Retd)GM Hiranandini PVSM,AVSM,NM The map of the Indian Naval Operations 3-13 December(Op Trident,Python and Grandslam). Once expanded, click on the induvidual sections to get a detailed map of each attack.

Epilogue

After the second missile attack on Karachi, the Pakistan navy took a controversial decision. At 1400 hrs on 9 December, orders were issued to all ships in Karachi to heavily reduce their ammunition outfits and limit their operational roles. This move was questioned by many who considered  it to be unthinkable just like the decision on 7 December to withdraw all naval surface ships to harbour(though it may have saved them) which was described as extremely shameful and cowardly and exposed the paralysis of the Pakistan Navy. This had an immediate and adverse effect on the morale of the Pakistan navy and was not widely accepted as a rational step. Within the first few days of the war, the Indian Navy had accomplished the heavy tasks assigned to it. With the very first of its major operations, the Indian Navy had absolutely wrecked the enemy forces. With the Pakistani Navy bottled up in harbour,the blockade had been effected and the Indian Navy was in total control of the seas around Pakistan. No merchant shipping could dare approach Karachi which itself was engulfed in thick black smoke. In addition to more than $3 billion worth of damage, most of the oil reserves and ammunition had been lost, warehouses and workshops destroyed and the PAF hit as well, making Karachi the greatest victim of the 1971 war. From 9 December onwards, the western fleet controlled the approaches to Karachi and a third missile attack,” Operation Triumph" was scheduled for 10 December. However, on the night of 9 December, the Indian frigate Khukri was torpedoed and sunk by the Pakistani Daphne class submarine Hangor during a hunter-killer operation. FOCINCWEST cancelled the third attack and deployed forces to hunt for the submarine. By the time it was reintroduced, the instruments of surrender had already been signed. Within a few days after the missile attacks, the Indian Navy's Eastern fleet had effectively destroyed the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan. At the end of the war, the Indian Navy controlled the seas around both the wings of Pakistan after achieving total dominance.

Squadron Commander(K-25) Commodore (Retd) B.B Yadav MVC
 Lieutenant Commander (Retd)  V. Jerath VrC

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,Vikas publishing,1980

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

5.      Mankekar, D. Twenty-Two Fateful Days: Pakistan Cut to Size. Indian Book Co., New Delhi 1972.

6.      Maj.Gen.Fazal Muqeem Khan, Pakistan’s crisis in leadership, National book foundation, Islamabad 1973

7.      Admiral(Retd) S.Kohli, We dared! ,Lancer International 1986

8.      Air Chief Marshal PC Lal, My years with IAF, Lancer International, New Delhi 1987

Copyright © Bharat Rakshak 2002