Indian Navy

Operation Trident- When India Bombed Karachi

Every year Navy Day is celebrated on 4th December. But why the Navy day is celebrated on 4th December? What happened on 4th December? What is the significance of Navy Day? We are going to answer all these questions in this article

Why Is Navy Day Celebrated

Navy day is celebrated on 4th December to commemorate the success of Operation Trident. Operation Trident was performed by the Indian Navy in the 1971 war. This was an offensive operation on the port of Karachi, in west Pakistan. We will discuss this in detail.

Operation Trident

Prelude

“And if war comes again, I assure you that we shall carry it right into the enemy’s biggest ports like Karachi. I know this harbour quite well for I started my career there. And you have my word that given the opportunity, the Indian Navy will make the world’s biggest bonfire of it.”

Admiral SM Nanda to blitz, 1969

The bombardment of Dwarka by Pakistan in the 1965 war sowed the seeds for operation Trident. The Indian navy realized the importance of offensive actions. Admiral S.M. Nanda swore that he would make the biggest bonfire of Karachi if war came again.

When it was quite evident that war with Pakistan was inevitable, the navy started working upon offensive plans. Admiral Nanda knew Karachi like the back of his hand as he spends his entire childhood there and started his career from Karachi port.

Karachi port was the major threat to Indian vessels. It was the most important and only naval harbour of Pakistani Navy. So destroying it was a necessity. But destroying Karachi was not that easy. It was heavily defended by 16-inch coastal batteries along with close air support from the Pakistani airforce.

The newly accquired Osa class missile boats were the only option for this operation. They were heavily armed, had state of the art radars and missiles and most importantly were very fast with top speed of 40 knots.

The Attack

As Pakistan bombed the airfields on 3rd December, the final go-ahead for the operation trident was given. The trident formation consisted of 3 Osa class missile boats INS Nipat, INS Nirghat, and INS Veer, and two Petyas INS Kiltan and INS Katchall. The Osa boats were part of the No. 25 missile boat squadron. The Trident formation was placed under the command of Commander BB Yadav. The three Osa boats were towed to the coast of Diu to conserve their engine hours, from where they were joined by the Petya. Interestingly the idea of towing came when these boats were towed from Kolkata to Mumbai during their delivery.

The Osa boats along with the Petya frigates moved silently in the moonlit light towards Karachi. At 2243 hours on 4th December, INS Nirghat established radar contact with a large vessel. It was indeed Pakistani Battle class destroyer PNS Khaiber. Commander Yadav gave the orders to fire the first missile of Nirghat. In Russian osa means wasp. Just like a wasp the SSN 2B Styx anti-ship missile stung PNS Khaiber. Amidst the confusion, onboard PNS Khaiber, whose sailors mistook the missiles as aircraft, made mayday calls and relayed wrong coordinates. Meanwhile, a second missile struck Khaiber and sent it to its watery grave.

The incorrect coordinates further delated rescue operations. The survivors of Khaiber became a delicious dinner for the sharks of the Arabian sea. The entire crew of 222 men was lost.

Coincidentally PNS Khaiber was the ship that bombed Dwarka in the 1965 war and interestingly became the first ship to be sunk in the 1971 war. What goes around….. comes around!

The next radar contact was made by INS Nipat at 2300 hrs. What seemed to be a single dot on radar were actually PNS Shah Jahan escorting the merchant Ship Venus challenger which was bringing much-needed ammunition for Pakistani forces. Nipat fired two missiles, one at each of them. Venus Challenger became a ball of fire and sunk immediately. PNS Shah Jahan was damaged beyond repair but managed to remain afloat.

The Trident formation moved towards Karachi. The next contact was made by INS Veer at 2321 hrs. It was PNS Muhafiz, a wooden minesweeper. Muhafiz became INS Veer’s first prey. Its crew was ironically burnt to death in the middle of a sea.

The trident formation when 14 nautical miles from Karachi harbour, fired its remaining Styx missiles at Kemari Oil Reserve. The Oil Tanks exploded burning the entire facility.

With this Commander BB Yadav passed the message ” Angaar” to Naval HQ, which meant success of operation trident.

The Retreat

Karachi was set on fire and 4 vessels were given sea burrial to their watery graves but it was not the time for celebration for the Trident Task Force. Before dawn, they had to get out of the range of shore Based fighters of the Pakistani airforce.

The Osa boats were designed as expendable assets and thus lacked defensive measures. The trident formation sailed out a full speed. But during the retreat, INS Veer suffered boiler leakage and thus was separated from the Trident Task Force.

Back in Karachi, it was a situation of utter confusion. Nobody was able to understand how everything had happened. The only thing they could understand that they were under attack. The Hunters of the Indian Airforce kept the Pakistani aircraft engaged ensuring secure retreat of the Trident Task Force.

Meanwhile the boiler leak onboard INS Veer had been fixed and along with the rest of the Task Force, it entered Mumbai harbour triumphantly

Aftermath

The Soviets Satellites picked up the activity at Karachi. The Soviets were shocked to see Osa missile boats doing all this. Admiral Gorshkov was also shocked. The Osa boats were not at all designed for offensive action. They were designed for coastal defence. Their primary purpose was to prevent any Normandy-like attempts on the Soviet Union. Admiral Gorshkov Later met the commanders of the Osa boats, Commander BB Yadav and Admiral SM Nanda, and congratulated them.

The Kemari Oil reserve was devastated by the two attacks by the Indian Navy. It resulted in an acute shortage of oil for the Pakistani forces which directly effected the operational preparedness of Pakistani troops

The Operation Trident and later Operation Python earned the No. 25 Missile boat squadron the name “Killer”. Today it is known as the “No. 25 killer squadron” of the Indian Navy. Commander BB Yadav was awarded Mahavir Chakra for his exceptional leadership in the operation Trident. Admiral Nanda was also given the title “The Man Who Bombed Karachi”.

With the operation trident, India and entire Southeast Asia had entered Missile Age. Big Naval guns became history. Operation Trident had registered Indian Navy’s Name in the glorious history of Naval warfare by its innovative approach. It remains a perfect example of planning, resourcefulness, innovation, and courage.

JAI HIND

Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant Preparing to be an officer Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream. I am a Defense analyst and enthusiast

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