'40 Years of Valour'
Special Cover Issued from Mumbai on 2 December 2011
The Indian Navy celebrated the annual ‘Killers Nite’ on December 1, last to commemorate its Missile Boat Squadron’s daring and successful attack against the Pakistani maritime forces in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The attacks were carried out in two phases on the nights of December 4 and 5, 1971 and December 8 and 9. The offensive operations undertaken by the Indian Naval ships delivered a severe blow to Pakistan’s war effort and its will to sustain maritime operations. Karachi was heavily defended with anti-aircraft guns. French made Daphne submarines and Pakistani naval ships were reported to be patrolling outside the harbour and off the coast. Air cover was being provided by the advanced US made Sabre jets.
Within hours of outbreak of hostilities, the Missile Boat Group was ordered to execute operation Trident, the code name for the first attack on Karachi. The task group consisting of three OSA class missile boats, escorted by two Kamorta class anti-submarine patrol vessels, regrouped off Okha and charged towards Karachi. At 2150 hrs on December 4, the task group was 70 nautical miles south-west of Karachi. Soon thereafter, the task group detected patrolling Pakistani naval ships on their sensors. The deadly missiles were heading towards their targets which were soon hit. PNS Khyber, a destroyer and PNS Muhafiz, a minesweeper were sunk. Another Pakistani destroyer Shajehan was badly damaged. The fuel storage tanks at Karachi harbour were set ablaze, causing heavy loss.
Operation Trident was a thundering success with no damage to any of the ships of the Indian Naval Task Group, which returned safely. Operation Trident had introduced to the war, the first ever ship launched missiles in the region.
Enthused by the success of this attack, the Indian Navy planned another offensive operation, code named Python. The continued presence of the Indian Navy’s larger ships is the area gave enough indication to the Pakistani naval authorities that more offensive operations were in the offing. The Pak aerial surveillance was stepped up and their ships attempted to outsmart the Indian Navy by mingling with merchant shipping. Notwithstanding these measures by the Pakistanis, operation Python was launched on the night on December 8 and 9, 1971.
Despite bad weather and rough seas, the task group consisting of missile boat Vinash and two multipurpose frigates, executed the attack with razor sharp precision. INS Vinash approached close to the Karachi coast and fired four missiles. The first missile struck the fuel tanks at the Keamari Oil Farm. The other three missiles hit the merchant tankers Harmattan, Gulf Star and the Pakistani naval tanker Dacca. More than 50 percent of the total fuel requirement of the Karachi zone was reported to have been blown up. Operation Python was another great success. It further demoralised the Pakistani military and shattered their will to sustain war. The effect of the attacks was felt in the battles on both the western and eastern frontiers.
The missile boats which took part in the attacks in 1971, have since been de-commissioned and replaced by the modern and more potent ‘Veer’ class missile vessels. These ships now form the 22nd Missile Vessel Squadron more popularly known as the ‘Killers Squadron’-the name inherited from their brave predecessors.
The ‘Killers Nite’ is held annually to commemorate these daring attacks and the gallant men who made them a success. The event was attended by senior Naval officers and civilian dignitaries. A number of retired Naval officers who had served in these ships and were associated with the offensive operations also joined the celebration to share their nostalgia with the new generation "Killers".Writes Cdr R Madhusoodanan IN (Retd) in Sainik Samchar.
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