The daring and innovative Operation Trident sank and damaged a number of Pakistani ships and set Karachi’s oil storage on fire at no cost to the Indian Navy (IN). It also created a psychosis of fear within the Pakistani Navy (PN) as it ordered all surface ships to enter the port two days after the attack. But a post-mortem of the action sparked some unease.
In particular, Vice-Admiral SN Kohli, the commanding general officer of Western Naval Command in Mumbai, was unhappy that more missiles had not been deployed to targets at port or coastal facilities. This has been attributed to a certain degree of uncertainty within the command structure. There was also a very real apprehension of air attacks leading to a somewhat rapid withdrawal. Aerial cover was provided to Karachi and the Pakistani fleet by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) bases at Masroor and Drigh Road.
Kohli and Nanda, the head of the navy were determined to strike Karachi again, despite the retaliatory air raid on Okha and the damage it caused. Operational momentum had to be maintained. Meanwhile, Pakistani warships attempted to outsmart the IN by mingling with the merchant navy. The Western Fleet was already at sea prepared for any operational opportunities that might arise. The two Whitby-class anti-submarine frigates of 15th Frigate Squadron, INS Trishul and INS Talwar were detached. They were in tandem with the INS Vinash missile boat to launch the second attack on Karachi. As escorts, they were to provide anti-aircraft cover and protection against submarines. The frigates would also maintain a lookout with their superior detection capabilities, provide longer-range communications, and command and control platforms. The Vidyut-class missile boat, the INS Vinash commanded by Lt. Commander Vijai Jerath with its four remotely-launched Styx anti-ship missiles (AShMs), was to be the strike arm.
It was then the task force that set out on December 8 to run Operation Python. At 10 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time (PKT), in rough seas, this group approached Manora, a peninsula south of the port of Karachi. En route, electronic broadcasts were detected on a Pakistani naval frequency under surveillance. It was analyzed that a vessel with a strong transmitter signaled the presence of the force to the maritime operations room in Karachi. When sighted, the patrol craft was attacked by Talwar with his 4.5 inch main guns, then closing in on his 40mm anti-aircraft guns, causing it to explode into pieces.
As the force approached Karachi, electronic surveillance from INS Trishul revealed that the radar had stopped rotating and was pointed directly at the group, confirming it had been detected. The surprise had been lost, but the operational ascendancy of the IN was such that no Pakistani warships or planes were sent to sea to challenge the group and no fire was opened on them from the defenses. port.
At 11 p.m. (PKT), the ships arrived off Karachi and detected a group of ships on their radar. The authorization to engage having been given at 11:15 am, the INS Vinash fired its four missiles after careful consideration. The distance from Karachi was now 12 nautical miles (nmi). Three of the targets were ships, the last being the Kemari Oil Farm which was again set on fire. The remaining missiles hit and sank the Panamanian oil tanker Steam Ship (SS) Gulf Star and the British merchant ship SS Harmattan. The fourth missile hit the PNS fleet tanker Dhaka, damaging it irreparably. In a pre-planned move, the Indian Air Force (IAF) attacked Karachi airfields at Masroor and Drigh Road shortly after the naval strike. This allowed the maritime group to return without a hitch. After exhausting all of their missiles and causing significant damage, the task force has now withdrawn.
Between naval operations Trident and Python and the IAF attacks on fuel and ammunition depots in Karachi, more than fifty percent of the total fuel requirements of the Karachi area have reportedly been destroyed. The damage was estimated at $ 3 billion, with most of the oil reserves and ammunition warehouses and workshops destroyed. PAF flight operations were also affected by the loss of fuel. In my opinion, this was a major factor in Pakistan’s inability to fight after the surrender of Dhaka.
As no casualties were observed on the Indian side, the two missile attacks led the PN to take extreme measures to avoid any further damage to its ships. On December 9, the day after the second attack, ships were ordered to reduce the ammunition on board in order to reduce explosion damage in the event of a collision. They were also forbidden to venture out to sea, especially at night. These two measures have seriously demoralized the entire PN. With the destruction caused by the IN, the neutral merchant ships quickly began to seek safe passage with Indian authorities before heading for Karachi. Gradually, neutral ships stopped sailing to Karachi. Indeed, a de facto naval blockade was created by the IN. The Soviet Navy was simply stunned by the feat of the IN. Meticulous planning at different levels, months of exercises and trials to hone skills, as well as spirited execution by the Missile Boat Squadron greatly contributed to the success of the operation. We must also recognize the strong political support that this bold plan has received.
Many aspects of the attacks were new – the use of missiles in this region for the first time, towing by larger ships to overcome the problem of endurance, radio silence and ingenious methods of communication not to be detected and the use of coastal defense vessels in an offensive role. The crews of the missile boats knew Russian well and had been trained in that country. The language has been used for radio communications in clear and cunning Pakistani intelligence. Vijai Jerath, captain of the Vinash, received the Vir Chakra for his composure and skill during the operation. A third missile attack, codenamed Operation Triumph scheduled for December 10, was canceled in view of the virtual naval supremacy obtained by the IN.
It was without a doubt the finest hour of the IN. The Navy fought in two separate theaters and established full sea control in both the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. A most effective blockade of East Pakistan was carried out by the IN. Maritime air power has been used successfully by the IN in the Eastern Theater via the INS Vikrant to sink Pakistani naval vessels and destroy coastal targets. The decline of land forces in defense of the Dhaka Bowl was prevented by the elimination of river transport by the IN and IAF, especially through the special forces of the former. In 1971, the Navy demonstrated that it could rise to the task and promote Indian interests and the goal of national warfare through meticulous planning, stealth, innovation and the projection of power. Control of the sea is essential for the promotion of trade and economic well-being.
The IN has shown that it can innovate to achieve victory. It now needs budgetary support and a coherent national maritime strategy.
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