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The reason behind celebrating Indian Navy Day – Operation Trident | India bombed Karachi

The reason behind celebrating Indian Navy Day - Operation Trident | India bombed Karachi

The Indian Navy Day is celebrated on 4th December every year to mark the success of Operation Trident, the daring and deadly attack carried out by missile boats of the Indian Navy on Karachi harbour during the 1971 Indo-Pak War.

The Navy Day celebrations are extended to an entire week in which the Navy Day falls, this week is called the Navy Week.

Every year the Navy Day celebrations are held at the Gateway of India of Mumbai and on a smaller scale at Visakhapatnam and Kochi as well. The celebrations end with an amazing Navy Ball at the end of the week.

The aim of celebrating the Navy Day is to showcase the capabilities of Indian Navy to the civilian public and to commemorate the success of Operation Trident.

Indian navy day celebration 4th december

The reason behind celebrating the Navy Day | Operation Trident –

The Indo-Pak War of 1971 formally started on 3 Dec when Pakistan launched pre-emptive air strikes on Indian air bases along the western Indian front.

On the night of 4–5 Dec, Indian Navy launched an offensive operation on Karachi port city, called Operation Trident.

It was the first time that Indian Navy used the anti-ship missiles in combat in the region.

Osa-I missile boat | Operation Trident
Osa-I missile boat (Source – thebetterIndia)

Karachi was a strategically important port, as it was the hub of Pakistan’s maritime trade and almost entire Pakistan Navy fleet was based on Karachi. During the operation, Indian Navy with a fleet of three Vidyut class missile boats – INS Nipat, INS Nirghat, and INS Veer severely damaged and sank Pakistani destroyer PNS Khaibar and a Minesweeper PNS Muhafiz. Also, an ammunition vessel and fuel storage tank was targeted.

Why did the Operation Trident take place?

The Pakistan army perpetrated wide spread violation of human rights in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) with support of some local, political and religious peoples, it is said that nearly 3 million people died of selective genocide, millions of others were left homeless and almost 10 million crossed border to seek refuge in India, the then Prime minister Mrs. Idira Gandhi extended full humanitarian support to them by opening refugee camps along the border, India was left holding the enormous burden of mass influx repeated appeal to the international community to end the holocaust fell on deaf ears so the Indian government decided to help the Mukti Bahini to liberate east Pakistan which already being named Bangladesh by its people.

Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini

Pakistan started being provocative, the Pakistan Air Force in East Pakistan took to attacking suspected Mukti Bahini camps located inside Indian territory in West Bengal and on the western border Pakistan combat aircraft suddenly struck 9 Indian airfields.

This was the breaking point.

Mrs. Indira Gandhi on the radio –

Today, I speak to you at the moment of great peril to our country and our people, today the war in Bangladesh has become a war on India.

Indira Gandhi Speech
Indira Gandhi giving a speech (Source – lifeberrys)

By midnight the same day India retaliated to the unprovoked aggression in full scale, India and Pakistan were locked in a two-front war, while the army and the air force carried out attacks along the border it was the Indian Navy that was given the strategic task of denying both East and the West Pakistan excess to war supplies.

East Pakistan - West Pakistan | 1971 Indo-Pak War

The aim was to make a naval blockade of both parts of the Pakistan.

How did the Operation Trident go about?

While INS Vikrant supported military operation on the east coast it was the western seafront that was witness to one of the most audacious and daring attacks in the history of naval warfare. It was here that a bold plan was conceptualized and implemented, one which requires engineering, perfect timing and absolute emphasis on the element of surprise.

The plan was to set ablaze Karachi harbor, this historic port of Karachi harbored Pakistani’s Naval headquarters, the entire naval fleet, and the Kemari oil storage tanks and the ships that were chosen for the mission were the sleek and stealthy Osa-class missile boat, these boats carried the newly acquired P-15 Termit missiles and among other short-range weapons were the twin AK-230 anti-missile guns.

Karachi Harbour on fire | Operation Trident
Karachi harbour on fire (Source – thebetterIndia)

The ships chosen for this offense were:

  • INS Nipat
  • INS Veer
  • INS Nirghat
  • INS Vinash
  • INS Nashak
  • INS Vidhut
  • INS Vijeta
  • INS Nirbhik

The Indian crew that was just back from the USSR after commissioning these boats were fluent in speaking Russian, this tactic was extensively used and all communications between the attacking vessels was in Russian so that even intercepted the tactic was not been given away, these tactics and methods introduced catalyst-ed the success of the operation.

As planned, on 4 December, the strike group reached 250 nautical miles (460 km; 290 mi)  south off the coast of Karachi, and maintained its position during the day, outside the surveillance range of the Pakistani Air Force. As Pakistani aircraft did not possess night-bombing capabilities, it was planned that the attack would take place between dusk and dawn.

At 10.30 pm Pakistan standard time (PKT), the tasked group moved 180 n mi (330 km; 210 mi) from its position towards the south of Karachi. Soon Pakistani targets, identified as warships, were detected 70 n mi (130 km; 81 mi) to the northwest of Karachi.

INS Nirghat drove forward in a northwesterly direction and fired its first Styx missile at PNS Khaibar, a Pakistani Battle-class destroyer. Khaibar, assuming it was a missile from Indian aircraft, engaged its anti-aircraft systems. The missile hit the right side of the ship, exploding below the galley in the electrician’s mess deck at 10.45 pm (PKT). This led to an explosion in the first boiler room. Subsequently, the ship lost propulsion and was flooded with smoke.

INS Nirghat firing an OSA missile
INS Nirghat firing an OSA missile at the Karachi harbour (Source – IndianDefenceNews)

An emergency signal that read: “Enemy aircraft attacked in position 020 FF 20. No. 1 boiler hit. Ship stopped”, was sent to Pakistan Naval Headquarters (PNHQ).

Due to the chaos created by the explosion, the signal contained the wrong coordinates of the ship’s position. This delayed rescue teams from reaching its location. Observing that the ship was still afloat, Nirghat fired its second missile hitting Khaibar in the second boiler room on the ship’s starboard side, eventually sinking the ship and killing approx 200 sailors.

After verifying two targets in the area northwest of Karachi, at 11.00 pm (PKT), INS Nipat fired two Styx missiles – one each at cargo vessel MV Venus Challenger and its escort PNS Shah-Jahan, a C class destroyer. Venus Challenger, carrying ammunition for the Pakistani forces, exploded immediately after the missile hit, and eventually sank 23 n mi (43 km; 26 mi) south of Karachi. The other missile targeted Shah Jahan and damaged the ship very badly. At 11.20 pm (PKT), PNS Muhafiz, an Adjutant-class minesweeper, was targeted by INS Veer. A missile was fired and Muhafiz was struck on the left side, abaft the bridge.

It sank immediately before it could send a signal to the PNHQ, killing 33 sailors.

Meanwhile, INS Nipat continued towards Karachi and targeted the Kemari oil storage tanks, placing itself 14 n mi (26 km; 16 mi)  south of the Karachi harbor. Of the two missiles launched, one misfired, and the other hit the oil tanks. The tanks burned and were destroyed completely, causing a shortage of fuel for the Pakistan Navy. The task force returned to the nearest Indian ports.

INS Nipat

Operation Trident was a remarkable and exceptional success in the sense that Indian Navy suffered no losses at its side and caused heavy casualties on the enemy side.

The operation was considered to be one of the most successful modern naval history after World War II.

After three days, the Navy followed Trident with Operation Python which again was a huge success. These attacks crippled the economy of Pakistan and played a decisive role in the victory of INDIA.

To commemorate this victory, Navy celebrates Indian Navy Day on 4th December every year and this operation remains one of the greatest win in naval warfare in recent times.

References :

Indian Navy Officer (Retd) Vikram Karve’s Blog