By Abdul Aziz
PNS/M HANGOR a French Daphne class submarine was commissioned in France on 01 Dec 1969, followed by two others of the same class. By 1971 four PN Submarines (one Fleet & three Daphne) had arrived in Pakistan. After the general election, the political temperature (due involvement of India) in East Pakistan had kept rising. This rise in political temperature was subsequently luring war clouds. In view of the increasing chances of war, the submarines sailed for patrols in order to gather intelligence and vital operational information of Indian Navy Fleet. The patrols helped the crew to build up the confidence level and test their war stamina and performance assessment of submarine equipment under real-time conditions.
On the night of 21/22 Nov 1971 when Indian army crossed the International Border in East Pakistan, HANGOR sailed with full wartime load of Torpedoes and was deployed off Bombay by 26 Nov. A defect in sea water circulating system developed which required docking of submarine to effect repairs. With consultation and support of officers and crew, the Commanding Officer of HANGOR Cdr Ahmed Tasnim decided to take risk. He at night kept the submarine at surface using deception tactics and with faith in God, managed to rectify the defect within 36 hours. The Commanding Officer even managed to deceive the enemy warship which closed the submarine. HANGOR would have been a sitting duck if the ship had opened fire; so the luck favored the brave and HANGOR managed to escape detection.
After rectifying the defect, HANGOR while closing to her deployment area on the night of 2/3 Dec 1971, intercepted IN fleet (comprising of 08 x ships), deployed in shallow waters. Action station was subsequently closed up, as the targets were in visual range of her periscope for a KILL. Since the hostilities were not yet broken out, therefore, Commanding Officer and his crew watched the prey move out of their grasp. It was an excellent opportunity for the submarine to attack. It must have been frustrating to see lucrative targets moving through the areas and in range.
On 6th Dec, area of HANGOR was shifted and by 8th Dec HANGOR stationed herself in her assigned area. HANGOR was operating with bathy conditions favourable for ships to detect submarines. Moreover, sea was calm and any use of periscope, even for short duration would be immediately picked up by enemy radar. Subsequently, HANGOR was extra vigilant on its acoustic sensors. For HANGOR, period of patience reached the climax on 9 Dec. For the first time since the war started, the enemy ships broke the silence, eventually their sonar transmissions were picked up by HANGOR, she identified two enemy frigates at some distance. HANGOR assumed the state of full combat alert, with all personnel onboard eager to join the battle. The Commanding Officer had no illusions about the risks involved in engaging hunter killer frigates, especially equipped for anti-submarine warfare. Despite of the risks involved, he chose to close the enemy. The Commanding Officer closed two targets in shallow with caution, prudence and exercising all professionalism to avoid detection. Patience being the greatest virtue in the submarine warfare, skilful measures were applied to wait and choose the right moment for attack. The key personnel devoted their undivided attention at their respective action stations to various tasks involved in getting a perfect fix. Only a few necessary words were being uttered, as each member of the crew knew exactly what was expected from him. Seconds ticked away marked eager activity, as all sonar information was fed into the Fire Control System. HANGOR was ready and at 1957 hours on 9th Dec 1971 the sharp command ‘Bismillah Shoot’ rang out and the first torpedo sped away. The torpedo homed on to the target, passed under and did not explode. At 2014 hrs, ‘Bismillah Shoot’ was again ordered for the launch of the second torpedo.
The sonar operator concentrated, tracked the torpedo with determination till it found its mark. As he listened, the headset was virtually ripped off by the deafening roar of a might explosion. The pressure wave rocked HANGOR and the detonation was heard clearly by all onboard, who themselves immediately reacted with a resounding shout of “Allah-O-Akbar”. The torpedo exploded under the magazine of INS KHUKRI and the huge explosion broke the ship in two and she sank in less than two minutes causing heavy causalities.
KHUKRI was the ship of Squadron Commander, who went down with the ship. There was however, little time for rejoicing as the other frigate, having located HANGOR started a counter attack and all minds turned to the task of meeting the threat. The enemy was approaching at speed, and was ready to commence firing anti-submarine mortars. Reacting instantly, HANGOR fired her third torpedo at 2024 hrs down the throat. The ship on hearing the torpedo reversed course, increased speed to out run the torpedo. The enemy maneuver was however unsuccessful. The torpedo hit her at long distance causing severe damage. The ship lost about 250 men in this action including Squadron Commander.
Having achieved her spectacular success, HANGOR started evasive maneuvers as the enemy was certainly going to react with the entire ASW force available. For the next three days, Indian warships combed the vicinity of the scene of action and HANGOR was subjected to extensive depth charge attacks. According to an estimate, 156 attacks were launched during this by the enemy. An extensive air search combined with surface ships was conducted but with intelligent evasive action, HANGOR managed to evade these attacks and arrived in Karachi safely after the cease of ire.
Despite these potential hazards the morale onboard HANGOR never wilted. As a member of the crew put to it, “The crew always felt that death would not matter so long as they succeed in destroying the enemy”. The ships crew was justifiably satisfied with their achievement under difficult conditions.
For their act of courage and devotion to duty, the officers and men on PNS/M HANGOR were decorated with 4 Sitara-i-Jurrat, 6 Tamgha-e-Jurrat and 14 ImtiaziAsnad. This is the highest number of operational gallantry awards given to any single unit of Pakistan Navy.
PNSUBMARINE HANGOR ACTIONS OF 1971 INDO-PAK WAR
It must be understood that though the S/M enjoys the advantage of stealth, restrictions on its operations are many. It has lower speed when submerged compared to surface ships. Therefore, an attack is only feasible if the S/M is in a sector ahead of its target. Higher submerged speed to intercept its target means lowering of battery capacity. The motor power of a submarine in the submerged state is dependent on batteries which must be frequently changed by coming up on surface or snorkeling. A submarine is extremely vulnerable when moving at high speed in shallow waters.
Not only it can be detected due to higher noise level but chances of its evading the enemy are sharply reduced if detected. Due to lack of manoeuvring space in the vertical plane. These factors were carefully considered and weighed by submarine commander and his control team as the boat manoeuvred to take CPA position ahead of patrolling frigates. During 1971 Indo-Pak war, the burden of Pakistan Navy’s offensive effort hinged on effective S/M force. PN Submarine HANGOR under the command of Cdr Ahmed Tasnim sailed in early hours of 22 Nov 1971 to patrol off the Indian Coast.
On 9 Dec, in an effort to locate the enemy, HANGOR extended her patrol to investigate some transmissions intercepted on her sensors. Two contacts were picked up and classified as warships. The submarine managed to forecast target ships movement and succeeded in taking up advantageous position on the path of patrolling frigate by 1900. At 1957 the submarine fired a down the throat shot with a homing torpedo at a Northerly ship.
The Commanding Officer directing the final stages of the torpedo attack on INS KUKRI, the torpedo was tracked but no explosion was heard. The second torpedo was therefore fired immediately on the incoming Southerly ship and this was followed by a tremendous explosion. The torpedo had found its mark. The other enemy frigate came straight for the submarine when the third torpedo was fired. A distant explosion was heard subsequently and the submarine was turned towards deeper waters for evasion. In this spectacular action INS KUKRI the ship of the Squadron Commander of Indian 14th Frigate Squadron was sunk within two minutes after receiving a hit in the magazine where the explosive were held. This was a first submarine kill since World War-II. 18 officers and 176 sailors including the Commanding Officer lost their lives. This came as shattering blow to the Indian Navy. HANGOR’S actions demonstrated Pakistan Navy’s tactical superiority in subsurface warfare considering the shape size and age of the ships at its command.
Cdre Roy in his book “A Nation and its navy at war” has ended with these words: “India will have to play its role in the Indian Ocean accordingly and Indian Navy cannot ever say Ring off main engines, revert to normal notice for steam.”
After the war even the critical BBC commentators praised Pakistan’s Naval effort. Considering the shape and size of the ships at its command, they said, the Pakistan Navy has acquitted itself well against the Indian Navy.