On the intervening nights of 4 and 5 December 1971, five Indian Navy missile boats launched a missile raid on Karachi port, dealing a critical blow to Pakistan Navy (PN).
The navy would follow this up with the sinking of PNS Ghazi, a Pakistani submarine, on the same night on the eastern coast, close to Vishakhapatnam.
After the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched pre-emptive air strikes on 3rd December, orders were issued to the Flag Officer C-in-C Western Naval Command (WNC) to go ahead with Operation Trident — a plan to bomb Karachi port, destroy its fuel reserves, render it in-operable and deal a critical blow to Pakistan's war-wagering and war-fighting capabilities.
The plan entailed five fast missile boats from the 25th Missile Boat Squadron — Killer Squadron — two Petya-class corvettes, INS Katchal and Kiltan, and three Osa-class boats, INS Nirghat, Nipat and Veer.
Each of the three missile boats carried four Soviet-origin Styx (P-15 Termit) anti-ship missile.
Approaching Karachi, the strike group identified Pakistani naval targets with the aid of the Petyas' radar. INS Nirghat and INS Nipat launched Styx missiles, destroying PNS Khaibar and a merchant ship 'MV Venus Challenger,' carrying arms for the Pakistan army, while INS Veer sank PNS Muhafiz.
Commander B B Yadav, leading the operation, targeted the Kiamari oil refinery with two more Styx missiles, setting it ablaze.
This attack significantly damaged Pakistan's naval capabilities and disrupted their maritime supply lines, marking a pivotal moment in the Indian Navy's history.
The operation's success led to severe oil shortages and a financial loss for Pakistan. It also disrupted the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) between East and West Pakistan, impacting US weapon supplies.
This decisive naval strike is commemorated on 4 December as 'Navy Day.' This was the first time that anti-ship missiles were used for both the anti-ship and land-attack mode in the region.
Sinking of PNS Ghazi
Meanwhile, the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi, sent on a mission to hunt the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, was sunk off the coast of Vishakhapatnam by the destroyer INS Rajput.
The Indian Navy had gathered intelligence on the presence of the submarine from various sources, including a daring intelligence operation, interception of a message from Chittagong about a special lubricant delivery, and sightings of the submarine near the Sri Lankan coast.
On the night of 3 December, INS Rajput, acting on a lookout report of a breaker on the surface of the water, dropped depth charges, resulting in two explosions.
Although no visual contact was established, the submarine sank on the night of 4 December, with all 93 servicemen on board lost.
Battle of Longewala
Moreover, Pakistan's 206th Infantry Brigade's (2,000 to 3,000 soldiers) thrust at Longewala, spearheaded by the 38th Cavalry, was halted by just a company of 120 soldiers of the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment, led by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri.
The IAF's Hawker Hunters and HF-24 Marut aircraft, in a morning operation on 5 December, annihilated the struck Pakistani forces, described by some officers as a 'turkey shoot.'
The infantry brigade's assault launched on the night of 4 to 5 December, was fiercely resisted by the 120 soldiers of Alpha Company. The Pakistani side's lack of reconnaissance led to their tanks bogged down in the sand, becoming easy targets for the 106mm recoilless rifles mounted on the Jongas.
These rifles struck the vulnerable top part of the tanks, destroying 12 of them. The IAF's morning strike further decimated the embattled Pakistani forces, destroying 22 more tanks and leaving a total of 100 vehicles destroyed and 2 captured.
Despite being completely surrounded, Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri's brave leadership against the overwhelming Pakistani force, coupled with timely IAF support, ensured the failure of Pakistan's plans.
These three events, occurring simultaneously at different locations, dealt a significant blow to Pakistan's military capabilities and morale, eventually culminating in the surrender at Dhaka on 16 December.
Meanwhile, the IAF continued to exert pressure for the third consecutive day, dropping over 144,000 lbs (65,317 kilograms) of bombs on four airfields with Canberras, while damaging a radar at Sakesar.
This forced the PAF to relocate some aircraft to rear airfields, hindering their ability to launch counter-air campaigns against the Indian Army on the western front.
Editorial Associate at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.
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