Operation Python | Indian History | Free PDF Download
On 3 December, after Pakistan attacked Indian airfields along the border, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 officially began.
The Indian Naval Headquarters (NHQ) in Delhi along with the Western Naval Command planned to attack the strategically important Port of Karachi.
On the night of 4/5 December, the Indian Navy launched Operation Trident with the Karachi Strike Group off the coast of Karachi.
This operation saw the first use of anti-ship missiles in combat in the region and inflicted heavy damage on the Pakistanis.
While India suffered no losses, Pakistan lost one minesweeper, one destroyer, a cargo vessel carrying ammunition, and fuel storage tanks in Karachi
The Pakistan Air Force retaliated against these attacks by bombing Okha Harbour, scoring direct hits on fueling facilities for missile boats, an ammunition dump, and the missile boats’ jetty.
The Indian Navy had anticipated this attack and had already moved the missile boats to other locations to prevent any losses. The destruction of the fueling facilities, however, prevented any further incursions until Operation Python was executed three days later.
Though the Indian Navy achieved significant success with Operation Trident, its main target, the oil storage facilities in Karachi, were still operational as only one of the two missiles fired had hit them.
After the first attack during Operation Trident on the Port of Karachi, Pakistan stepped up aerial surveillance of its coast as the presence of large Indian Navy ships gave the impression that another attack was being planned.
Pakistani warships attempted to outsmart the Indian Navy by mingling with merchant shipping. To counter these moves, Operation Python was launch
On the night of 8/9 December 1971, at 10:00 pm Pakistan Standard Time (PKT), in rough seas, a small strike group consisting of the missile boat INS Vinash, equipped with four Styx missiles, and two multipurpose frigates, INS Talwar and INS Trishul, approached Manora, a peninsula south of the Port of Karachi.
During their voyage, a Pakistani patrol vessel was encountered and sunk.
Around 11.00 pm (PKT), the group detected a batch of ships at a distance of 12 nmi (22 km; 14 mi). Vinash immediately fired four of its missiles, the first of which struck the fuel tanks at the Kemari Oil Farm causing a heavy explosion.
Another missile hit and sank the Panamanian fuel tanker SS Gulf Star. The third and fourth missiles hit the Pakistani Navy fleet tanker PNS Dacca and the British merchant vessel SS Harmattan. Dacca was damaged beyond repair, while Harmattan sank.
Between Operations Trident and Python, and the Indian Air Force attacks on Karachi’s fuel and ammunition depots, more than fifty percent of the total fuel requirement of the Karachi zone was reported to have been destroyed.
The result was a crippling economic blow to Pakistan. The damage was estimated to be worth $3 billion, with most of the oil reserves and ammunition warehouses and workshops destroyed.
With no casualties observed on the Indian side, both missile attacks (Trident and Python) led the Pakistan Navy to take extreme measures to prevent any further damage.
The rescue efforts were immediately coordinated by Rear Admiral Patrick Simpson who kept morale high among the Pakistani Navy officers.
The ships were also ordered not to manoeuvre out at sea, especially during the night, unless ordered to do so. These two measures severely demoralized Pakistani naval crews.