NAVY DAY –– 04 DEC 2005

An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 01 December 2005

Navy Day is celebrated on 4th December each year. This year the Navy is riding a high tide as it were, and the most ambitious expansion plans ever undertaken by a developing Navy are in place. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on record to assure funds for the Navy and hoped to increase the Defence Budget from 2.5% of GNP to 3%, if the economy grows at 8%. So on the occasion of Navy day 2005, in a tribute to our Navy, we recall with pride some of the glorious achievements of the past with the hope that they would inspire the naval fraternity to even greater achievements in the future.

On the midnight of 3rd/4th December 1971, the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi sank off Visakhapatnam coast and later that same night the Indian Navy’s Osa class missile boats (nick named The Killers), ventured into Pakistan’s bastion at Karachi and sank three ships. The architect of the mission Admiral S M Nanda wrote of the incident in his memoirs aptly titled ‘The Man Who Bombed Karachi'.

Luck it is said favours the brave and so it was in the 1971 war for the Indian Navy. Except when the INS Khukri with Capt M N Mulla in command went down to a watery grave off Diu on the fateful night of 9th December along with 18 officers and 176 sailors. The submarine PNS Hangor (Cdr Tasneem in command –– later Vice Admiral) torpedoed the Khukri and made a heroic gateway although he was stalked and cornered the next day by IN ships and newly acquired Seaking helicopters. The Admiral was in Delhi two years ago and had quite a tale to tell, but both countries have not released the original documents pertaining to the war.

The Sinking of PNS Ghazi

It is said that Napoleon always chose the General with a lucky streak for a difficult mission, from among the names, which were put before him. In war, as in love, an element of chance always persists –– thus the discussion whether it was bad luck or a deliberate depth charge attack that sent the Pakistani submarine Ghazi (formerly USS Diablo) with Cdr Mohammed Khan in command, to a watery grave with no survivors a few miles off Visakhapatnam early on the morning of 4th December 1971, still rages. The debate is whether the Pakistani crew was negligent, or was it that INS Rajput and patrol craft Akshay on patrol off Visakhapatnam, forced the submarine to dive deep when they dropped depth-charges and she hit the bottom of the sea? Or did a mine explode in the submarine’s vulnerable hull when attempting to lay mines hoping to get the INS Vikrant?. The Navy had generated bogus signal traffic which suggested that INS Vikrant was operating off Visakh, but the aircraft carrier was in the Bay of Bengal? Or did the submarine suffer some mechanical problem and lose buoyancy and dive into Davy Jones’ Locker (the bottom of the sea) –– the word is derived from Divya Loka (Goddess of the Seas)? All these are moot questions that will never be answered with certainty, for not one of the 90 Pakistani sailors on board survived to tell the true tale of their mishap. Yet it was Indian Navy’s luck that contributed to the Ghazi’s demise.

A large explosion was heard off Vishakapatnam immediately after midnight of 3/4 December by the Naval coastal battery and INS Rajput had reported depth charge attacks with no results. Next day two fishermen Chintapalli Satyalu and Chintapalli Achayya of Kotha Jalaripeta, fishing in a “Todi” found a life jacket belonging to the Ghazi floating near Visakhapatnam, and when they handed it over to the Navy, the C in C Vice Admiral N Krishnan promptly rewarded the fishermen Rs 500 each. He ordered INS Nistar a diving tender to find the wreckage. When Nistar located the wreckage it retrieved many relics from the submarine, and it became clear that had the Ghazi lived it would have had a tale to tell of hardship, endurance, and courage but alas she fell prey to lack of underwater art. It was a lucky shot for the Navy on the first day of what turned out to be a 14-day victory trot for India, and led to the birth of Bangladesh.

The Missile Attack On Karachi – 4th December 1971

The Western Fleet led by Flagship INS Mysore (Capt later VAdm Rusi Ghandhi) was at sea geared for battle. The Pakistani Fleet failed to come out which confused the Indian Fleet Commander, RAdm Chandy Kuruvilla and his staff. The C-in-C West (Vice Adm S.N. Kohli ) set in motion the attack on Karachi. The frigates Kiltan (Cdr Gopal Rao ) and the Katchall (Cdr K.N. Zadu ) were ordered to meet up with the missle boats Nirghat (Lt Cdr I.J. Sharma ), Nipat (Cdr Babru Yadav, K-25 (Lt Cdr B.N. Kavina) and Veer (Lt Cdr O.P. Mehta ) and were put on their way to Karachi after fuelling under shore control. The C-in-C was in the Maritime Operations Room, fingers crossed, having let his killer dogs loose on Karachi with no air cover. With speed in excess of 28 knots, the small boats, which offer minimum radar targets, approached Karachi in darkness, and launched their Styx missiles. Pakistani officers on duty in the control room at Karachi failed to realize that it was a sea borne attack. The missile boats were relieved to be allowed their goal without retaliation, and speedily retreated with a few missiles still intact for their retiring phase. Keesing’s Archives reporting the incident in January 1972 had this to say, “In the biggest naval battle since the Second World War an Indian Task Force sank the Pakistani destroyers Khaibar (formerly HMS Cadiz) and Shah Jahan (formerly HMS Charity ) and two mine sweepers off Karachi in the early hours of 5 December.” In actual fact only the destroyers PNS Khaibar (Capt Nasseem Mallik) Minesweeper PNS Muhafiz (Lt. Cdr MS Usmani) and merchant ship Venus Challenger carrying contraband sank on that fateful day. The historic attack is commemorated as Navy Day. All Commanding Officers were decorated for their heroic sortie, which will long be remembered for it earned the Navy two MVCs and 4 VrCs.

Today the Navy’s plans are ambitious. It has 24 ships on order in India including an aircraft carrier at Cochin. Another INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) is being readied in Russia with 16 MiG 29s and the Navy may soon acquire the 17,000 ton LPD USS Trenton with helicopters for its increased role in the Indian Ocean and to safe guard India’s future. The nation can truly be proud of its Navy.

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