Now 87, the Chandigarh resident was among the most daring attacks by the Indian Navy. Commodore Khurana, who had been trained in maritime studies at the University of Greenwich in London, was essential to the attack as he safely sailed a fleet of 14 ships.
Commodore TS Khurana had to navigate a fleet of 14 INS Mysore ships
Commodore Khurana says that once he joined his new post they stayed at sea for long periods of time, working on all aspects of naval warfare and developing expertise. “The then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral SM Nanda, had brilliant ‘out of the box’ ideas, which we were commissioned to carry out. The Indian Navy acquired 8 OSA class missile ships from the Soviet Union before the war. Each 70-ton boat was carrying four deadly missiles. They had a top speed of 40 knots, but limited endurance. The Russians used them for coastal defense, ”he says.
The retired officer says they had to innovate because these missiles were now to be used for attack and not for coastal defense. “When locked to a target, like a ship or a shore facility, they had almost 100% destruction capacity. In order to exploit their devastating capacity, it was decided to deploy them either with a quick run from Okha on the coast from Saurashtra (the forward base) to Karachi which was within range, or in a much more aggressive manner from the sea in a surprise attack. To achieve the latter, we decided that our warships would tow these boats, escorted by larger warships, and we would release them when locked on target, ”the officer said.
Bombing of Karachi
To achieve the goal, the fleet was tasked with preparing secret and comprehensive plans to bomb Karachi. It was at this time that “Operation Trident” and “Operation Python” were born. The first was to take place from the southwest of the port of Karachi and the last from the northwest at night, taking the enemy by surprise.
The officer recalls that he was to sail on a fleet of 14 INS Mysore ships. He added that secrecy was guaranteed after the plans were approved by higher authorities. “The crew of all ships was on board at 10 p.m. on December 2, 1971, with no idea of the mission.
The whole of Bombay was obscured, as were all the ships. At 2 a.m. that night, all ships left the port in complete darkness, sailing near the west coast to bypass Pakistani submarines which were known to be deployed in deeper waters. At dawn, the fleet changed course west to take up position in accordance with Operation Trident, ensuring en route that all ships and boats were refueled and replenished with oil and other logistics by the logistics vessel. support, INS Poshak.
At that time, we were not equipped with GPS or other electronic navigation aids and I had to rely on celestial bodies which was difficult due to weather considerations, forcing me to remain the flag deck for the entire period from December 2 to the time of our return. at the port of Bombay on December 14 (two days before the end of the war) due to engine problems on the INS Mysore, ”said Commodore Khurana.
The attack on Karachi began on the morning of December 4 as IAF hunters attacked the oil tanks of Karachi Kemari, causing massive fires.
Then, as part of Operation Trident, escorted by fleet ships, an attack group of three missile boats armed with Soviet STYX surface-to-surface missiles, from a position 210 miles to the south west of Karachi, soared and the missiles locked on their targets, the sinking of the Pakistani warship Khaibar, killing 220 officers and sailors. “In the next attack, the missiles locked onto the merchant ship Venus Challenger, carrying ammunition for Pakistani forces, which immediately detonated and sank. The next missile hit PNS Shahjahan and the minesweeper Muhafiz, which also resulted in their sinking. rushed along the coast to their forward base in Okha. The ships of the fleet gathered in groups and retreated towards the sea at high speed to be out of range of the Pakistani Air Force bombers, ”he said.
The officer says the next attack was scheduled two nights later, but was delayed partly because of bad weather and also because they intercepted a merchant ship, the SS Madhumati, carrying ammunition to Karachi. . “She was captured and escorted to Bombay,” he adds. “As part of Operation Python, on the night of December 8-9, INS Vinash was tasked with leading the attack. Escorted by the INS frigates Trishul and Talwar, the INS Vinash, despite serious engine problems which were skillfully corrected as it approached Karachi at high speed, fired missiles, again targeting the oil discharges and causing a massive fire, ”he said.
The officer says the operation took the Pakistani navy by surprise and forced the country to declare a complete blockade of the port of Karachi. The enemy sent a message through trade channels, warning that any ship breaking the blockade would do so at their own risk. “We were the masters of the Arabian Sea,” said Commodore Khurana.
At the end of the two operations, due to a boiler problem at the INS in Mysore, the fleet had to return to Bombay.
The reception was, of course, awe-inspiring. His daughter, dermatologist Malika Sachdev, said Commodore Khurana was awarded the Nau Sena Medal for his role in the war.