Opinion: How the fall of Karachi port was brought by India's 'Killer Squadron' in 1971

Indian Navy launched two back to back operations called Operation Trident and Operation Python to destroy Karachi Naval Facilities in 1971. Photograph:( Others )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Dec 15, 2017, 11.30 AM (IST) Major Amit Bansal

A second generation Defence Officer, Commander (later Commodore) Babru Bhan Yadav was from Utter Pradesh and was commissioned into Indian Navy in 1951. He attended training in UK and Russia over various equipment and ships.

During the 1971 War, he was commanding Indian Navy’s 25th Missile Boat Squadron which consisted of three Vidyut Class Missile Boats (INS Nipat, INS Nirghat and INS Veer), two Anti-Submarine Corvettes (INS Kiltan and INS Katchali) and a tanker ship called INS Poshak.

Since Karachi was the headquarters of Pakistan Navy and it was essential to target this 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 task to Commander Babru Bhan Yadav whose missile ships were armed with SSN-2B Styx Missiles with a range of up to 40 Kms. Indian Navy launched two back to back operations called Operation Trident and Operation Python to destroy Karachi Naval Facilities.

Operation Trident

In the daytime of 4th December, the strike group reached 250 Nautical Miles away from Karachi port and stayed there to avoid any kind of surveillance by Pak Air Force. Since Pakistani Aircrafts did not have night attack capabilities, it was decided to launch the attack from dusk to dawn. On the Night of 4/5 December 1971, the strike group moved and fired its first missile from a close distance.

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 what it is. The first missile hit PNS Khaibar’s boiler room and soon after the second missile also hit him, sinking the ship along with 222 sailors.

Also read: Opinion: Indian Army's out of the box thinking won 1971 war

Another minesweeper ship called PNS Muhafiz and a large cargo ship of US which was carrying ammunition for Pakistani Forces (MV Challenger) were also hit and sunk. The Operation was not over yet. Another Pakistani ship PNS Shah Jahan was also hit and was damaged beyond repair. Karachi part had a large oil storage and one missile from INS Veer hit this target too but could not damage this completely.

Operation Python

It was essential for India to destroy the oil storage facilities at Karachi port but the problem was that Pakistan Navy and Air Force had enhanced the security of the Karachi port and were totally waiting in pursuit of Indian Forces, anticipating that they will attack again. Commander BB Yadav decided to send a small and highly manoeuvrable force to target this. On the night of 8/9 December 1971, a small strike group with a single missile boat and two multipurpose ships with just 4 Styx missiles moved towards Karachi Port in rough seas.

Because of the increased surveillance of the Pak Navy, the group was detected by the radars at Karachi port and now it had very less time to react. Anticipating the situation, Commander BB Yadav ordered INS Vinash to fire all its missiles immediately and return to safety. Out of the four missiles fired by INS Vinash, one hit the oil storage facilities which burned with a loud explosion.

The explosion took the nearby ammunition depot in its coverage and a Diwali like situation started at Karachi port with explosions audible even at 10 Nautical Miles. The second missile hit a Panama based fuel tanker and sunk it. The third one hit another Pakistan Navy ship called PNS Dacca and damaged it beyond repair and fourth one hit and sank a merchant vessel, MV Harmattan which was carrying war stores for Pakistan forces.

Because of these two operations, nearly 50 per cent of the fuel reserves of Karachi Zone and 70 per cent of ammunition were destroyed. It caused a heavy blow on Pakistan Economy because the resultant loss was almost US $ 3 Billion.

Indian Navy Celebrates its Navy day on 4th December in the memory of Operation Trident and Python as well to commemorate the leader of the operation- Commander Babru Bhan Yadav, Mahavir Chakra. Because of him, 25th Missile Boat Squadron of Indian Navy is still called as “The Killer Squadron”.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Major Amit Bansal

Major Amit Bansal is is a Defence Strategist with keen interests in International Relations and Internal Security. He is also an author, blogger and poet.