|Part of Indo-Pakistani War of 1971|
|Commanders and leaders|
|ADM SM Nanda||R.ADM Hasan Ahmed
CDRE Patrick J. Simpson
Capt. SQ Raza
|Indian Navy||Pakistani Navy|
|1 Missile boat
2 Multipurpose frigates
|Casualties and losses|
|None||Freighter Gulf Star sunk
MV SS Harmatttan sunk
Tanker PNS Dacca badly damaged
200 injured
1,790 killed
Karachi harbour damaged
Operation Python, a follow-up to Operation Trident, was a code name of a naval attack launched on West Pakistan's port city of Karachi by the Indian Navy during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. After the first attack during Operation Trident on Karachi port, Pakistan stepped up aerial surveillance of its coast and the presence of large Indian Navy ships gave the impression that another attack was being planned. Pakistan warships attempted to outsmart the Indian Navy by mingling with merchant shipping. To counter these moves, Operation Python was launched on the night on 8/9 December 1971.
Karachi housed the headquarters of the Pakistani Navy and almost the entire fleet was based at Karachi Harbour. Karachi was also the hub of Pakistan's maritime trade, meaning that a blockade would be disastrous for Pakistan’s economy. The defence of Karachi harbour was therefore paramount to the Pakistani High Command and it was heavily defended against any airstrikes or naval strikes. Karachi received some of the best defences Pakistan had to offer as well as cover from strike aircraft based at two airfields in the area. The Indian fleet lay 250 miles from Karachi during the day, outside the range of Pakistani aircraft, and most of these aircraft did not possess night-bombing capability. The Pakistani Navy had launched submarine operations to gather intelligence on Indian naval efforts. Even so, with multiple intels provided by the submarines, the Navy had failed to divert the naval attacks, due to misleading intelligence and communications.
Operation Trident was an enormous success with no damage to any of the ships of the Indian Naval Task Group, which returned safely. The success of this operation prompted another successful attack on the Pakistani coast, named Operation Python.
The Pakistani Navy had continued its submarine operations in the region, even after the first missile attack. On 6 December, naval intelligence learned the second major formation was moving close to Karachi, in an intel passed regularly by her submarines deployed in the region. To counter this threat, Chief of Naval Staff Vice-Admiral Muzaffar Hassan met with Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Abdul Rahim Khan in which an airstrike group was formed. Following Operation Python on the evening of 8 December at about 1800 hrs. The Chief of Air Staff of PAF was contacted by direct telephone and asked for the strike from the air. The Chief of Naval Staff of Pakistan Navy also had a word with him to emphasise the urgency.
On the night of 8 December 1971, in rough seas, a small strike group consisting of missile boat INS Vinash and two multipurpose frigates, INS Talwar and INS Trishul, approached Karachi. Vinash fired four SS-N-2B Styx missiles. The first missile struck the fuel tanks at the Keamari Oil Farm. Another missile hit and sank a Panamian fuel tanker the SS Gulf Star. The third and fourth missiles hit the Pakistani Navy fleet tanker PNS Dacca and the British ship SS Harmattan. Dacca was damaged beyond repair while the Merchant Vessel SS Harmattan sank. One Pakistani ship was captured off the Makran coast.
Between Operations Trident and Python, and the Indian Air Force attacks on Karachi's fuel and ammunition depots, more than 50 percent of the total fuel requirement of the Karachi zone was reported to have been blown up. The result was a crippling economic blow to Pakistan. The damage was estimated at worth $3 billion, with most of the oil reserves and ammunition, warehouses and workshops had been destroyed and PAF was also hit.
Python was another successful operation by the Indian Navy. The Pakistani fuel reserves for the sector were destroyed and the flames could be seen even from miles away. India had established complete control over the oil route from the Persian Gulf to Pakistani ports. Shipping traffic to and from Karachi, Pakistan's only major port at that time, ceased. The Pakistani Navy's main ships were either destroyed or forced to remain in port. A partial naval blockade was imposed by the Indian Navy on the port of Karachi.
The rescue efforts were immediately coordinated by Rear-Admiral Patrick Julian Simpson (later 3-star Vice-Admiral) who kept morale high among the officers. For this, he conferred with Sitara-e-Jurat. Apart from the obsolescence of its weapons, the lack of adequate air support inhibited the success of its operations. Due to heavy funding for the Pakistani Army's weapons and production, the neglect of the Navy over several decades came through clearly in the 1971 war.
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