Hello defence lovers! In this article, we are going to discuss a very interesting and mysterious topic. Its about the sinking of PNS Ghazi, the submarine which was tasked to sink INS Vikrant but sunk herself under mysterious circumstances.
Disclaimer: This article is based on the content written by Major General Ian Cardozo and Admiral SM Nanda in their books The Sinking Of INS Khukri and The Man Who Bombed Karachi respectively.
PNS Ghazi was an American Trench Class submarine. Pakistan leased it from the US in 1963. Technically it was leased by America, but in reality, it was to counter rising Soviet influence on India.
She served the US Navy as USS Diablo for 18 years (1945 to 1963). The Ayub Khan Administration procured it from the Kennedy Administration for four years under the Security Assistance Program which was nothing more than an American anti-Soviet policy.
Now talking about her capabilities, PNS Ghazi was the only submarine in the Pakistan navy which could reach the Indian east coast. She had a whopping range of 20,000 km. While submerged she displaced 2400 tons and was armed with 10 21inch torpedo tubes.
INS Vikrant- A lucrative target!
Right from the time when Pakistan realised that war with India was inevitable, it started planning an attack on INS Vikrant, the flagship and only aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy (she was even the only aircraft carrier in Asia though).
Owning and operating an aircraft carrier was a matter of immense pride for a Navy. Losing it in action would not only reduce the navy’s power to a great extent but also would cause massive humiliation. It would significantly lower the morale of the entire Navy.
Keeping these factors in mind, the Pakistan Navy planned dubious attack on INS Vikrant. With the help of some undiscovered external foreign powers (needless to say that it was indeed CIA), Pakistan was keeping a very close eye on the movements of Vikrant. PNS Ghazi was dispatched on 14 November 1971, with the mission to sink Vikrant.
What Pakistan couldn’t have ever thought it signed the death warrant of PNS Ghazi, by assigning her the mission to sink Vikrant. Pakistan was completely unaware of what actually had happened. Pakistan’s plan was long ago exposed by the intelligence network of Indian spies. PNS Ghazi had entered into a carefully planned and laid trap.
On the night of 2nd December, deceiving the enemy eyes on her, INS Vikrant changed course and headed towards Andaman and Nicobar islands. Meanwhile INS Rajput, an Indian Navy Destroyer used Vikrant’s call sign and acted as a decoy at Vishakhapatnam naval base, where Vikrant was supposed to be.
For few days before Vikrant’s apparent arrival at Vishakpattanam, large orders for ration and other replenishment were placed. Orders were large enough to signal the arrival of Vikrant. Pakistan’s intelligence network picked that up, exactly what the Indian Navy wanted.
The Pakistanis thought themselves so smart that they neglected a simple but important fact. At that time Vishakapattam Harbour just couldn’t accommodate such a gigantic ship like Vikrant.
The Sea Burial Of PNS Ghazi
The PNS Ghazi silently entered the Visakhapatnam harbour on 3rd December. Meanwhile, INS Rajput discovered some bubbles signalling the presence of a submarine. Rajput fired two dept charges and didn’t wait there to confirm the impact.
Meanwhile, in that same night, a very loud explosion in the sea near the harbour was heard. It was so loud that it shattered the windows of nearby houses. Later in the morning of 4th December, the debris of PNS Ghazi was discovered.
Officially INS Rajput was given the credit for PNS Ghazi’s kill but even today how Ghazi sunk is a mystery.
The first possibility is what the Indian Navy believes. The dept charges fired by Rajput could have hit the Ghazi, which could have blown it up.
The second possibility is that PNS Ghazi was laying mines, and somehow drifted back into its own mines and then exploaded. This is what Pakistani Navy beleives.
The third possibility revolves around a malfunction. Ghazi could have detected Rajput first. But its torpedo could have malfunctioned and exploded inside the submarine. This seems to be more evident as, upon inspection of the debris, it was discovered that ghazi exploded outwards.
The fourth possibility seems to be the most evident. The logbooks found from the debris of PNS Ghazi reveal that there was a problem of hydrogen build-up in the submarine. This could be very dangerous as hydrogen could have ignited by any small spark which further could have ignited the ammunition onboard PNS Ghazi.
We do not know what exactly had happened on the night of 3rd December 1971. we don’t know how exactly Ghazi sank. But what we know that the Indian navy won the battle of wits and Ghazi was buried deep into the sea and INS Vikrant was safe. It was also the victory of the unsung heroes who always remain behind the scenes and provide us with crucial intelligence.