Sinking of Indian Naval Ship KHUKRI by Pakistan Navy Submarine HANGOR During 1971 Indo-Pak War

“With the sinking of Khukri the submarine arm of Pakistan’s Navy raised national honour and pride and even shocked the world. Pakistan was reassured it could rely on its submarines to blunt the Indian Navy.” (The Deadly Trade, Iain Ballyntyne)

Sinking of INS KHUKRI by PNS/M HANGOR was not only the maiden event in which a conventional submarine sank an Anti-submarine frigate post-second world war but it is an event of great professional acumen, fortitude and perseverance under unfavourable environments. This sinking continues to be a record in the modern Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) history therefore HANGOR’s action is a must study by all those assigned for ASW functions in war and peace.

As the clouds of war between India and Pakistan grew nearer, Pakistan Navy submarine  HANGOR proceeded to sea to establish Patrol in assigned area.

The Indian naval hierarchy was of the opinion that any enemy submarine close to its coast must be neutralised. Therefore, on 8 December 1971, Indian Navy (IN) tasked its front line 14th ASW squadron comprising INS KIRPAN and INS KHUKRI to sail.  The ships were tasked to undertake trials of prototype gadget for improving the ranges of ship’s sonar. The ships reached its assigned area and commenced the trials in rectangular search pattern. Indian ships reduced the speed of ships to 12 knots to facilitate sonar trails. They also didn’t streamed the unifoxer (onboard noise maker equipment) to facilitate sonar trials. The sonar trial area was in shallow waters where there was hardly any chance of especting a submarine. That is why Iaian Ballyntyne in his book wrote “When Hangor arrived there, off Diu Head she immediately detected two enemy warships on patrol. They seemed keen on protecting themselves by sticking to shallow waters where they thought submarines would be unlikely to venture”.

Sinking of INS KHUKRI is a classic example of courage, perseverance, professional acumen, team work and unwavering leadership of the Commanding Officer Cdr Ahmed Tasnim and his daring crew to achieve the mission in the face of potent enemy force during  unfavourable sea conditions.

On detection of Indian ships, HANGOR undertook a daring manoeuvre and silently positioned her near the Indian ships. As Iaian Ballyntyne in his book quotes, “It was a very dicey manoeuvring. ”

Little known to people that the distance between HANGOR and Indian  ships at the start of detaction was quite far. HANGOR daringly penetrated into shallow waters in sonar conditions favouring Indian naval ships and discreetly traversed to arrive at correct firing position. After confirming the latest position of KIRPAN and KHUKRI, Pakistan submarine valiently attacked on enemy ships. It shall be remembered that it is the art, professional skill and acumen of Commanding Officer of HANGOR then Cdr Ahmed Tasnim (later Vice Admiral) brought the submarine to a perfect firing position.  At 1957 (PST) on 09 December 1971, HANGOR fired the first torpedo on KIRPAN; however it missed the target. The CO Cdr Ahmed Tasnim was well cognisant that KHUKRI was passing very close on the right flank. Another torpedo was fired on KHUKRI  and it exploded the ship thereby sunk in less than three minutes. On board HANGOR everyone knew that they got their war trophy.

The attack on KHUKRI was also witnessed by Commanding Officer of KIRPAN who fled the scene to take refuge. HANGOR was keeping a track of KIRPAN on its plot, it immediately fired another homing torpedo on KIRPAN. The fact that INS KIRPAN did not return back is evidence that it was severely  damaged as hit by HANGOR.

Consequent to sinking of Indian ship KHUKRI , Indian Navy undertook extensive search for HANGOR under the operation code named “Operation FALCON” which continued from 9 to 13 December 1971. During the search, hundreds of depth charges were fired against HANGOR. But the unwavering courage and morale held fast and eventually HANGOR after shaking off the whole Indian Navy entered KARACHI on 18 December 1971.

Sinking of INS KHUKRI is a classic example of courage, perseverance, professional acumen, team work and unwavering leadership of the Commanding Officer Cdr Ahmed Tasnim and his daring crew to achieve the mission in the face of potent enemy force during  unfavourable sea conditions. Sinking of KHUKRI had effects not only at the tactical level but at strategic level it had put the emboldened Indian Navy on the defensive which called off its at least three follow up offensives against Pakistan. As Iain Ballantyne wrote “With the sinking of Khukri the submarine arm of Pakistan’s Navy raised national honour and pride and even shocked the world. Pakistan was reassured it could rely on its submarines to blunt the Indian Navy.”

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About Naveed Ahmed 2 Articles
Writer is a research fellow in Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCE)