Chapter 10
L’audace, L’audace, Toujours de L’audace.
(Boldness, Boldness, Always Boldness) – Napoleon

India started acquiring Soviet ships and submarines in 1965 when Britain stopped its line of credit and refused funding to build Oberon class subs. Mountbatten observed “I managed more favourable terms for the construction of a British submarine but it all took so long that this transaction fell through”. Pakistan had acquired USS Diablo (PNS Ghazi sunk in 1971 off Visakhapatnam), and the Indian Navy was concerned. In September 1965, an Indian delegation in Moscow agreed to acquire 4 Foxtrot submarines (Kalvari class), 5 Petya anti submarine vessels (Kamorta Class), a depot ship (Amba).

Defence Minister Y B Chavan had seen the Osa class missile boats offered by Admiral Gorshkov operating in the Black Seas for port protection. Their short range and seaworthiness were dissuading, though China Indonesia and Egypt had acquired them. The submarine support ship Amba was acquired for Submarine support and the vital security of Andaman & Nicobar just 60 miles from Indonesia. Because in the 1965 war President Sukarno loaned Pakistan two small W class Soviet submarines Nagarangsang and Bramaastra in the 1965 war. Lt Basuki and Lt Sultan Ahmed(Later CNS Pakistan) with small crews sailed them to Karachi from Jakarta on surface. Admiral YH Malik CNS of Pakistan Navy then a junior officer on Bramaastra, stated no Indian warship was ever sighted on passage Jakarta to Karachi. Navy did not take part in the 1965 war on orders of Jt Secretary HC Sarin in absence of Def Sec Rao and DM Chavan and PM Lal Bahadur Shastri told CNS BS Soman it was a Cabinet order.

On 21 October 1967 in the six day war the Egyptian Navy Osa missile boats sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat (ex Z Class Royal Navy) with 47 dead. The P-15 missiles were fired from boats in port, when the Eliat was operating near the Sinai coast. This revived Navy’s interest in the Osas.
Chapter 11 Page 139
Osa Missile Boats’ Nylon Necklace
The low silhouette and stealth characteristics of the Osa boats gave them the advantage of surprise. The Indian Navy, yearning to enter the missile age, recommended their acquisition to deter ‘hit and run raids’’ on the Saurashtra coast, the kind the Pakistan Navy conducted off Dwarka by their Destroyer squadron of 5 ships led by PNS Babur in the 1965 war. They falsely claimed to media that a ship was sunk, when only one cow died!

In his book Admiral Kohli states: “Intelligence had suggested that the Pakistan Navy was considering acquisition of missile fitted frigates. To forestall the dangers of a missile attack by Pakistan on Bombay, I had enquired from Admiral Gorshkov whether they had a mobile missile battery which could be deployed for the defence of Bombay. He replied in the negative. He later persuaded the Indian Navy that for defence of Bombay and major ports, the small Osa class missile boats would be ideal.” Project Alpha Kilo for Rs 20 crores for 8 boats and 11 months training in Vladivostok was signed.
The Osa Boats And The Towing Necklace

It was a stroke of luck for eight 240 ton Osa Class missile boats to arrive aboard heavy lift ships at Calcutta’s Kidderpore docks, in early 1971 just before the war. Russian agency Chinoy Chablani who serviced Bhilai steel plant machinery, used the large crane to unload, for training ship INS Cauvery (Cdr IK Erry Lt Cdr Ranjit B Rai) and INS Tir (Cdr GM Hiranandani Lt Cdr SK Chand) to tow two boats each to Bombay.
Each missile boat was armed with 4 SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missiles (instead of the normal two), fitted with 3 Russian 4000 hp M-503G diesel engines for 35 knots at full power for short ranges, and the boats’ Rangout radar (NATO Square Tie) with bursts of directed power could detect surface targets over 40 miles in anomalous weather well beyond the Styx maximum missile range of 30 miles.

It is interesting how the bold attacks on Karachi by the short range Osa missile boats germinated. Innovative constructor officers of the Naval Dockyard at Vishakhapatnam used Garware nylon ropes sent from Pune for trials as berthing hawsers, converting them into a towing ‘Necklace’ with brackets welded. The author as First Lt. under INS Cauvery Cdr IK Erry had towed 2 boats from Calcutta in rough monsoon. seas. Two towing hawsers had parted and splicing them at sea was a challenge which I mentioned to Chief of Staff Commodore M S Randhawa (Ex boss in ND School) while requesting spare towing hawsers. He called ND(V) whose constructors, after consulting Soviet guarantee specialists, inserted light nylon hawsers all round the Missile boats in clamps fixed on the boats for towing, like a necklace.
They welded more clamps in a system to connect a tow and easily release it. This generated an idea to enhance the range of Osas (literally ‘wasps’) from home base under tow, then let them loose for attack, an operational ploy the Russians had never thought of.

Vice Admiral N Krishnan used this in his plan for the 1971 war as CNS Admiral SM Nanda gave the task to make out plans to Krishnan, his NA Capt Duggal and DNO Cmde OS Dawson and later dictated the war plans himself. The 8 Osa boats fortunately enabled Admiral Suerendra Nath Kohli the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command to set up facilities and commission the “25th Missile Boat Squadron”at Bombay under Russian trained Cdr Babru Yadav at INS Angrewith access to berths in Naval Dockyard.

The Technical Position (TP) that caters for missile testing and stowage was set up under Russian trained Cmde B G Madholar at Mankhurd in suburban Bombay. The missiles were sent to Lion Gate dockyard after preparation by Vladivostok-trained electrical officers Lts Promod Bhasin (later awarded VSM) and BVM Rao. Western Command simulated attacks on Karachi and one Osa was attached with the Western
Fleet in tow.
Admiral Nanda’s Ingenious War Plans
Napoleon believed in lucky generals and he attributed decisive victories to ‘luck and timing’. So did CNS Admiral SM Nanda the ‘Bomber of Karachi’, citing ‘boldness and secrecy’ as important attributes in the ‘Indian Principles of War’. Few know that Nanda did not dictate the key Operational Orders for the daring attack on Karachi to his HQ staff but to a young relation sworn to secrecy.

These were sent to Western Naval Command as charge documents. He took Vice Admiral S N Kohli, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command into confidence, to exercise the Osa boats for the intended operations. He informed PM Mrs. Indira Gandhi of his plans to attack Karachi, and in a closed door Chiefs of Staff
meeting chaired by Gen Sam Manekshaw, asked Air Chief Marshal PC Lal for an air strike on Karachi at dawn the first day of the war.

When Manekshaw found Lal considering this suicidal, Sam said in Punjabi, “Chotta brah ek strike mang raha hai. De de,” (small brother is asking for just one strike, give it) and added “Marange to marenge, asi ladayi karan ja rahi hai, mohabaat nahi.” (Die if we must, we are going to war, not to make love). Thus would flamboyant Manekshaw confront operational issues head on. He spoke to Mrs. Indira Gandhi in a tone of confidence and acted like Chief of Defence Staff which irked Air Chief Lal. When Manekshaw was promoted to Field Marshal as Army Chief after the war and
was being considered for CDS, ACM Lal objected and is in his auto biography My Years With The IAF. Nanda, on tour in Bombay was sounded by Defence Secretary Govind Narian, and smiled, “You can promote any one with as many stars as you like – as long as you do not take away any of mine”. The IAF since then till 2012 has objected to a CDS, a seminal loss to the nation, brought out in the Kargil war.

Nanda employing the RN Staff College tri-appreciation technique, asked for three independent operational war plans from his DNO Commodore O S Dawson, NA Capt. V P Duggal and Vice Admiral Nilkanth Krishnan (appointed as Flag Officer
Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command). He allotted one missile boat to be in tow to Rear Admiral Chandy Kuruvilla the Western Fleet commander to lead the strike on Karachi. The Fleet Operations Officer feared the fleet was spotted on 3rd December by a civilian Pakistani plane flying though close to the Makran coast, steered away and failed to strike, belying Nanda’s expectation. Nanda had made the war signal and Mrs. Gandhi had broadcast that war had broken. A disappointed Nanda reviewed plans and ordered Op Trident.

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