India celebrates its Navy Day on December 4 every year as Operation Trident was launched on this day in 1971. To commemorate this victory, which is considered as one of the greatest wins in Indian naval warfare, Indian Navy pays tribute to the brave souls on this day.
Let’s find out the fascinating story of the mission that proved to be a turning point in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
In 1968, war clouds were clearly seen in the skies of both the neighboring nations. When the tension was high on both the sides, Indian Navy decided to acquire the Osa-I missile boats from the Soviet Union from Russia. These were fast-moving and stealthy missile boats that could look deep and strike deep. But the one crucial downside was that they had a short range. Despite that, Indian Navy acquired eight Osa-Is, established its Missile Boats Squadron, and flew crew members to Russia.
It was in early 1971 when these missile boats were finally shipped to India. However, due to lack of heavy cranes in Mumbai, these boats were offloaded in Kolkata and later towed along the coast to Mumbai. But this long process, led to the genesis of a brilliant idea in the minds of India’s naval commanders and it further resulted in the brilliant Operation Trident. At that time, some brilliant minds thought that if these boats could be towed from Kolkata to Mumbai, they can also be towed directly from Mumbai to Karachi and this way their short range feature could be overcomed.
On the other hand, Pakistan Air Force had attacked six Indian airfields at 5.45 PM on December 3, 1971. It was the same night, shen IAF Canberra aircrafts struck Pakistani airfields as ground battles and immediately commenced in nearly every sector. While all this was going on, now it was time for Indian Navy’s “Killer Squadron” to join the battle.
On the night of December 3, a group of Osa-I missile boats — INS Nipat, INS Nirghat and INS Veer set sail from Mumbai harbour. The very next day i.e. On December 4, two Petya class Frigates — the INS Katchall (under Cdr. KN Zadu) and INS Kiltan (under Commander. G Rao) – attacked with the missile boats to form the Trident team.
Meanwhile, the Osa-Is was successfully towed to reach the Karachi harbour by night, sailing westward and then northwards. The missile boats proceeded in an arrowhead formation to change the course frequently with radar inputs from INS Kiltan while avoiding radar attention from the enemy.
Within just 90 minuts, Rangout radar on INS Nirghat attacked PNS Khaiber, a destroyer of Pak Navy. After that two more targets were picked – PNS Shah Jehan and merchant vessel Venus Challenger (carrying ammunition for the Pakistani Army).
The Pak Navy was left baffled as they couldn’t figure out what had hit their ships. They were assuming that its the aircraft attack and kept trying to engage the Styx missiles with their anti-craft guns. After that, PNS Khyber also transmitted a mayday signal stating that it had been hit by enemy aircraft.
Indian squadron, on the other hand, had alsread fixed their sight on the fuel storage facilities on the shore. In the confusion, Pakistan Air Force even targeted its own frigate ship, PNS Zulfiqar, assuming it to be an enemy ship. After the huge win, on December 7, 1971, the Killer Squadron sailed into Bombay and received a huge welcome. They were applauded that they managed to turn the situation in 90 minutes – in which they attacked six missiles, sunk three front-line enemy vessels and even destroyed the oil storage facility at the Karachi harbour – that too without a single Indian casualty.
The operation was considered to be one of the most successful modern naval histories after World War II. After three days, the Navy followed Trident with Operation Python and it was again a huge success. After these attacks the economy of Pakistan was badly crippled, meanwhile the day was marked as one of the greatest victories in Indian history. And, ever since Dec 4 is cellebrated as Navy Day to pay tribute to the brave naval commanders.
Source: The Better India