On 4th December every year we celebrate Indian Navy Day. Credit goes to a second-generation Defence Officer, Commander (later Commodore) Babru Bhan Yadav, Mahavir Chakra. It was the day when mighty Indian Navy attacked Karachi Harbour and created such an effect that Pakistan Navy was unable to operate for the entire duration of the war. They were so scared that the destroyed their own flagship- PNS Zulfiqar- in panic.Also Read - 'Silent, Strong and Swift': The Nation, Including PM Modi, Salutes the 'Men in White' on Navy Day 2019
It was “Operation Trident” on this day in 1971. Commander Babru Bhan Yadav was commanding Indian Navy’s 25th Missile Boat Squadron at Okha which consisted of Eight Vidyut Class Missile Boats. For Operation Trident- three of them were selected along with two Corvettes from 31st Patrol Squadron. All three of the missile boats (INS Nirghat, INS Nipat and INS Veer) carried 4 Russian made SS-N-2B Styx Surface to Surface missiles with 40 Km range. Also Read - Harbhajan Singh Perfectly Shuts Down Twitter User Who Was Against Glorification of Indian Navy
Since Karachi was the headquarters of Pakistan Navy and it was essential to achieve a naval supremacy over our neighbour. The then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral SM Nanda and the Western Fleet Commander Vice Admiral GK Hiranandani decided to give this ambitious task to Commander Babru Bhan Yadav, MVC. Indian Navy launched two back to back operations called Operation Trident and Operation Python to destroy Karachi Naval Facilities. Also Read - Indian Navy displays its might as part of Navy Day celebrations
Operation started in the morning of 4th December 1971 when the strike group consisted of three missile boats moved to the international waters about 250 Nautical miles from Karachi port. It stayed there to avoid any kind of surveillance by Pak Air Force. The operation was planned in the night hours because Pakistani Aircrafts responsible for coastal defence of Karachi did have night attack capabilities. At around 10:00 PM of 4/5 December 1971, the strike group moved and INS Nirghat fired its first missile from a close distance targeted at PNS Khaibar- destroyer of Pakistan Navy. Commander of PNS Khaibar at Karachi port saw some light in the sky and thought of it as some flair fired from a boat in distress but as the fireball kept coming closer to him, he realised his mistake. The first missile hit PNS Khaibar’s Boiler room and soon after the second missile hit him sinking the ship along with 222 sailors.
INS Nipat also identified two targets- Merchant Vessel Venus Challenger carrying Ammunition for Pakistani Forces and its escort PNS Shahjahan- destroyer of Pakistani Navy. It fired two missiles at them. While MV Venus Challenger was immediately sunk after several serial blasts (As it was carrying ammunition), PNS Shahjahan was so badly damaged that Pakistan Navy had to scrap it after the war.
INS Veer targeted a Pakistani minesweeper ship PNS Muhafiz which had sunk with its 33 sailors. All the Indian Missile boats then moved towards Karachi port and targeted its support functions from a close distance of just 26 Kilometres. Soon the fuel storage facility and ammunition shelters of Karachi port were in flames while the Indian strike group returned safely to its base.
Curious case of PNZ Zulfiqar
Operation Trident created a bad psychological effect on Pakistan Navy. So much that they were scared to come out of the port. Entire force was full of panic and they were reporting several false alarms. On the early morning hours of 6th December 1971, a Pak Fokker Friendship Surveillance aircraft reported an Indian Missile boat in the Arabian sea. Soon several F-86 fighter jets were scrambled and sent to bomb the so-called Indian Ship. Despite the fact that it was a destroyer (not a missile boat), anchored near Pakistani waters (no warship will put its anchor near an enemy base) and was hoisting Pakistani Flag, Pak fighter jets attacked it with their all might. In less than 3 minutes of intense attack from all directions, PNS Zulfiqar-The flagship of Pakistan Navy took more than 900 rounds of heavy .50 Calibre ammunition resulting in death of more than 40% of its officers and sailor. The ship was damaged beyond repair and was scrapped.
Indian Navy did not stop here, it planned another “Operation Python” again in the leadership of Commander Babru Bhan Yadav. On the night of 8/9 December 1971, a small strike group with a single missile boat (INS Vinash) and two multipurpose ships moved towards Karachi Port in rough seas. Because of the increased surveillance of the Pak Navy, the group was detected by Pakistan radars. Anticipating the situation, Commander Yadav ordered INS Vinash to fire all four of its missiles and return to safety. It resulted in complete destruction of fuel facilities of Karachi Port, destruction of weapon and ammunition storage on the port and sinking of two merchant ships carrying stores for Pakistan Defence Forces. They also hit another Pakistan Navy ship – PNS Dacca and damaged it beyond repair.
Because of these two operations, nearly 50% of the fuel reserves of Karachi Zone and 70% of ammunition were destroyed. It caused a heavy blow to Pakistan Economy in the resultant loss of almost US $3 Billion in 1971.
Today when we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of one of greatest victories of world history, this event gives us another reason to be proud of ourselves, our forces and India’s might.
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