Written by: Lt Cdr Raheel Await PN
If you are a student of history, a military man, a warfare practitioner, a person who Is interested in developing leadership skills & team entrepreneurship, and especially if you belong to a group of seamen who put ‘dolphin insignia’ on their chest, then this story will inspire you deeply. The story is about a spectacular War Patrol by Pakistan Navy Submarine HANGOR during the 1971 War. Even after 50 years, the inspiring history of this submarine has much more to offer for our future. In order to play an offensive role in the war, HANGOR sailed from Karachi Naval Base on 22 Nov and returned on 13 Dec. Apart from sinking one Indian ship (INS KHUKRl) and crippling down the other (INS KIRPAN) on 09 Dec, this War Patrol of 21 days has so many other inspirations and lessons for us. This article is going to highlight few of them.
“Submarines Constitute First Line
& Last Line of Defence”
“Die erste and letzte Verteldlgungslinie” (we will constitute first line and last line of Defence); these were the words of a German Navy Admiral who secretly met his Chancellor to discuss his proposal for a major shift in Naval Strategy during World War II, and pursued for enhanced role of submarines. Since then, these words have somehow become a common saying among the submariners in different world navies. However, Pakistan Navy Submarine HANGOR’s story clearly validates these historical words.
In later half of 1971, as the war clouds loomed over Pakistan; Pakistan Navy started ‘pitching in’ its flotilla of 04 x submarines (GHAZI, HANGOR, SHUSHUK & MANGRO) on the frontlines of sea frontiers. By the 3rdweek of Nov 1971, Pakistan Navy Submarines were well placed in their respective assigned areas, that is behind the enemy lines. This offensive nature of submarine deployment by Pakistan Navy, restricted free movement of Indian Surface units and they remained closed to the coast and mostly operated in shallow waters.
On 02 Dec, Indian Surface ship flotilla came out of Bombay (now Mumbai) and it was successfully detected by HANGOR which was operating off Bombay. This Indian flotilla was comprising of 10 x units including 02 x heavy units (Cruiser – INS MYSORE & Oil Tanker INS POSHAK). HANGOR closed them for confirmation; it tracked and classified Indian Force well in time. In his book, The Sinking of INS Khukri: Survivors Stories an Indian war veteran Major General Ian Cardozo writes “the fleet was now in grave danger”.
HANGOR remained poised and assessed the intention of Intercepted Indian Surface units. Submarine made an assessment that intercepted Indian surface units are an ‘Attacking Force’ which Is heading towards Karachi Major General Ian Cardozo further explains how the HANGOR could have easily neutralized the Indian force if the war would have broken out, “This was a dream target for the crew of the HANGOR or for the crew of any submarine for that matter”.
Temptation of sinking the Indian units for submarine crew increased manifolds as the Indian force got further closer and it came well inside the weapon envelope of HANGOR. A grave responsibility, therefore, rested on theshoulders of the Commanding Officer of HANGOR, Commander Ahmed Tasnim (now Vice Admiral (R) Ahmed Tasnim HI(M), SJ& Bar, S Bt). He decided to obey the orders of higher headquarters and chose not to attack Indian units as the war was not yet declared. Indian War Veteran says “there was only one problem the war has not yet started”.
HANGOR chose to respect the orders over emotions. In his book, The Man who Bombed Karachi, Admiral Nanda an Indian Navy War Veteran states “He (Commander Ahmed Tasnim) had been egged on by many hotheads In the control room to fire his torpedoes but he refused on the grounds that war had not broken out”.
As soon as Indian attacking force passed over its area, HANGOR decided to break the radio silence (against the nature of classical submarine warfare) and informed its headquarters about position and course of Indian attacking force. This was an early warning, a warning which HANGOR provided 48 hours before the attack on Karachi by Indian force. This was exactly what any frontline defence element could have offered to Its country. After the two attacks on Karachi (Operation Trident -04 Dec & Operation Python- 08 Dec); Indian Navy planned for third and most lethal attack (Operation Triumph) on Karachi. This attack was planned on 10 Dec by a larger Attacking force. Third attack was purely aimed to destroy Pakistan’s maritime infrastructure (port facilities, ships and oil storages). HANGOR, knowing the importance of earliest engagement of Indian Naval units, moved further close to Indian Coast and on 09 Dec carried out successful torpedo attacks on 02 x Indian Ships. This action of HANGOR, created a severe ‘pull back’ factors for Indian Navy. After the sinking of KHUKRI and infliction of severe damage to KIRPAN by submarine HANGOR, Indian Navy had to abandon attack on Karachi (Operation Triumph) and put its assets against only one submarine that was HANGOR. In next three days, nearly 70 percent of Indian Fleet assets participated in search and attack Operation Falcon against HANGOR. Till today, Indian Naval Strategists acknowledge that HANGOR stopped them from what they call ‘a final blow’, against Karachi.
“A Finer Model to Run a ship” Story of HANGOR provides a blueprint for leaders of any organization; which can help them to address the challenge of an increasingly complicated working matrix. Conduct of HANGOR in 1971 War gives a real-time example of precise execution, teamwork, and enabling of talent. It presents a finer model to run a ship, for that matter it is equally applicable to run any organization.
Leader Lays foundation: Success story of HANGOR does not start and end with Its action on 09 Dec, rather its stems few years before war and It is ever lasting. In 1966, Pakistan signed an agreement with France for acquisition of 03 x Daphne class submarines (HANGOR, SHUSHUK & MANGRO). There were multiple challenges for Pakistan Navy with respect to operating such complex technology, and its Integration to overall concept of operations. This all demanded a strong foundation and highest level of genius and competence. It was Commander Ahmed Tansim who was not only the Commanding Officer of leading Submarine but also overall mission Commander of this project. An officer who is Just 33 years of age, led a complex and high tech project with highest standards of efficiency. He not only ensured to train the men under Command to operate modern submarine safely and efficiently but also played a leadingrole In designing a framework for Pakistan Navy Submarine force with respect to documentation, publications, SOPS, tactics.
They didn’t have followers onboard: In year 2012, an Ex Commanding Officer of US Navy Submarine Captain L David Marquet presented an Interesting model to run any organization of the world. In his book Turn the Ship Around; he suggested a major deviation from “Leaders followers model’ to ‘Leaders Leaders model”. He argued that an efficient ship has a leadership at all level; no one is follower. Once Commanding Officer delegates and acknowledges powers to each tier of organization this creates a unique sense of ownness; sense of responsibility which results Into drive and initiative among all. Now the ship no more belongs to Captain; rather every sailor onboard owns it equally. It is also interesting that HANGOR was already following the same model In year 1971. All events related to HANGOR reveal an incredible secret that this submarine didn’t have followers onboard.
The Commanding officer perceived the Imminent outbreak of war, he started final preparations for the war deployment. However, the defective hydraulic mechanism of weapon firing system was a major hurdle for the submarine’s combat efficiency; without the same no weapon could be fired. Commanding Officer, knowing the criticality of the defect, discussed the problem with his Chief Ordinance (as JCO responsible for weapon launching system). Soon Chief Ordinance decided to abandon all his family commitments and came onboard submarine; remember it was first day of Eid-ul-Fitr. Commanding Officer and his JCO passed complete day and night onboard the submarine and nearby workshop; by midnight they were to rectify the defect.
On 01 Dec, Submarine was operating In her assigned area in enemy water, once it faced a major technical problem as Its Air Conditioning System (a life line for onboard Sensors and weapons) got defective. It was a major technical defect which required return of HANGOR to home port. Engineering officer and his team of young sailors opted otherwise and decided to rectify defect at sea. The 12 hours’ rigorous efforts of young team brought fruits and defect was rectified.
On the same day, in order to rectify the air conditioning system HANGOR came at sea surface (a most venerable situation for a submarine). At this time, one of the Indian Navy units came closer and Officer of the Watch which was on conning tower, raised the alarm and asked Commanding Officer to come up to conning tower. Commanding Officer rushed towards conning tower to assess the situation. As two officers were still trying to verify the identity of the ship, Communication Rating (a junior sailor) switched on Radio Receiver without being asked to do so. Soon he informed Command that It is an Indian Ship which is calling Its Coastal Command station Bombay. Just purely on his intelligence and initiative, he solved the problem which his Command was facing to establish the identity.
By 09 Dec, HANGOR was trying to chase and intercept Indian Warships. KHUKRI and KIRPAN Ships were following (Zig Zag course); making it hard for HANGOR to achievea firing position. After some hours, Command team of HANGOR was able to find a solution of this complete problem; once a Lieutenant (a junior officer) came With his analytical assessment that Indian Ships were following a ‘Rectangular Search Pattern’. Ultimately HANGOR chose a future position of Indian Ships rather than chasing them and waited for them.
Captain had something Special: In this 21 days of War Patrol; the conduct of Commanding Officer Is deeply thought provoking and Inspiring for all those who are heading their organizations, units, ships, submarine and for that matter any department.
He was a Risk taker: In one of the recent interview, Vice Admiral Ahmed Tasnim said; “I strongly believed If you take a calculated risk… surely you will be rewarded”. During this mission, Commanding Officer took risk more than one time; there had been deeply stressful occasions once HANGOR had to choose between death and mission.
HANGOR becomes a Fishing Boot: During the mission, HANGOR faced technical issue related to Air Conditioning System. After the decision of carrying out defect rectification at sea rather than abandoning the mission, submarine had to come at surface for duration of defect rectification. Tactically was a ‘no go’ situation for any submarine of the world. Inside the enemy areas, once enemy maritime surveillance efforts were fully mobilized, bringing HANGOR up at surface was a complete risk. In order to avoid detection, Commanding Officer decided to rig the submarine as a `fishing boat’; at night extra lights on pattern of fishing boat were installed. After making a camouflage, Commanding Officer gave order to technical team “chola bocho Bismillah karo” (Kids let’s begin the work with the name of Allah). In order to handle any sudden enemy activity only one officer alone was left on Conning Officer; submarine was adjusted for rapid dive. It was also decided that officer on Conning Tower had to be left outside if situation arises and submarine had to dive due to sudden threat from enemy.
We will not Dive: Technical team was still busy in defect rectification when the officer of the watch shouted “Captain on Bridge”; it was an emergency call for calling Commanding Officer. One of the Indian Ship was in close vicinity and the distance was reducing. Officer of the Watch asked Captain to dive; Captain remained silent Sir, “permission to dive”; Officer of Watch shouted again….Captain took a long breath and said…….”we will not dive”. Commanding officer had two options; either to dive immediately and give a strong confirmation to Indian ship which was only 2000 yards away that it was a submarine and get ready for urgent attack by the ship. Second option was even more risky, stay at the surface, continue behaving like a fishing boat and wait for Indian Ship to get open. He chose the latter, the riskier option.
Break the Radio Silence: Information related to presence of Indian Attacking force which was heading towards Karachi was vital for higher headquarters in Pakistan. HANGOR could pass such information only by opting to break its radio silence. But any radio transmission by HANGOR could result into its disclosure of position. Again, Commanding Officer, rightly weighted the option of break radio silence for passing an important Information while making necessary tactical safeguards.
Kept his nerves in control: In the late evening of 09 Dec, after achieving a good firing control solution; HANGOR fired its first torpedo against INS KIRPAN. Everything went as written procedures and doctrine, torpedo ran and went under the Indian Ship; however, it did not explode. It was a major setback for HANGOR, as submarine had already disclosed its position to Indian ship. There was a pin drop silence in the control room of HANGOR; team was mentally blocked what to do next? Here comes the role of Captain; he asked team not to worry, and got the submarine to fire the second torpedo, this time torpedo ran and hit its target which was INS KHUKRI; ship sank to seabed in less than 2 minutes. Submarine fired its third torpedo against well cautioned KIRPAN, nevertheless torpedo hit the target, inflicted severe damage. This was all possible because of strong nerves of Commanding Officer; who did not succumb to the tactical pressure and led his team.
Make myself unpredictable: After bearing loss of two ships, Indian Navy shifted complete focus for search and hunt mission against HANGOR. All possible assets were committed by Indian Navy. Indians expected that after this attack, HANGOR must be evading towards its home waters; therefore, they kept their focus on areas which were leading to Pakistani water. But HANGOR Commanding Officer, had some other plan, he told his team, “let me make myself unpredictable”; rather than evading towards home waters, he chose a complete different option. An idea, which Indian Navy never figured out. Till date, Indian war veterans embrace the sharp minds of HANGOR crew.
Sharpen the Teeth in Peacetime: Importance of peacetime patrol by submarines for intelligence gathering and understanding the dynamics of enemy areas is clearly manifested by the story of HANGOR. In year 1971, few months before war, HANGOR conducted intelligence patrol in Indian Waters. Following were outcome of this patrol, which served HANGOR In war:
One of them had defective radar: HANGOR established that out of three Indian Navy Maritime surveillance aircrafts, one was having defective ‘radars an equipment used to detect submarine periscopes and other mast once she is snorkeling (charging its batteries). During the evasion after successful hitting the Indian Ship HANGOR efficiently exploited this weakness of Indian Aircraft. HANGOR used to take chance for snorkeling once aircraft with defective radar was ‘on task’.
They transmit and wait: Before this peacetime patrol in enemy water; there was an idea among Pakistan Navy Submariners that Indian Navy leading ASW frigates (PATAYA class ships) had some technical issues with respect to their sonar (an equipment used to detect submarine under water). However, HANGOR established this was not the case. Rather, Indian ships were using a unique tactics called ‘transmit and wale; as after one active transmission (ping) of sonar they used to shift sonar mode from active to passive and luring the submarine to do a high-speed maneuver and while trying to detect submarine on passive. This revelation helped HANGOR during Operation Falcon once these Indian ships were searching of HANGOR after loss of two ships.
HANGOR found safe Heavens: The peacetime mission also helped HANGOR to identify certain classified areas within enemy waters which could be used as safe heavens. HANGOR used one of them once while she was operating on a surface for defect rectification.
Operate near to Seabed: HANGOR also established that sonar performance of enemy ships gets degraded if submarine operates near to seabed. Same factor was efficiently exploited by HANGOR once it was sneaking the barriers of Indian Ships.
Above all there was a Resilience: Once HANGOR disclosed its presence to Indian Navy by hitting two ships, time and conditions were all worse for the submarine. She was operating in shallow water as less as 50 m charted depth (remember this submarine was not designed for shallow water operations); due to winter; sea was calm enough to detect even a ripple of submarine’s periscope appearing at surface of water. Full moon was also helping Indian Aircrafts to visually locate the submarine if she would break the surface and all above acoustic conditions were ideal for Indian ships to detect a submarine. HANGOR was ‘pitched in’ worst conditions which are considered a ‘nightmare for any submarine of world.
During Operation Falcon, Indian Navy committed all possible assets against HANGOR, over 156 depth charge (explosive bombs) were dropped by Indian Navy. HANGOR had to face this all without any smallest degree of comfort, submarine passed next 4 days without air conditioners, without fans, without cooking and water supply. Above all, still she was supposed to keep her mind alert with highest standards of professional competence. It was resilience of crew HANGOR which made to handle all these challenges.
Here We stand today: The highest level of professional competence, team coherence, and love for the motherland, made HANGOR one of the most decorated unit of Pakistan. Not only, she got honor to be the first and the only diesel submarine which scored a hit after World War II, unit also earned 04 x Sitar-e-Jurrats, 06 x Tamghe-e-Jurrats and 14 x Imtlazi Asnads.
Every year, as a tribute to the valiant crew; 09 Dec is celebrated as HANGOR day in Pakistan Navy. This year 2021 Is considered special as this story of HANGOR will be remembered for its Golden Jubilee. In recognition of this act of valor, Pakistan Navy upcoming modernsubmarines are also designated as HANGAR class. But a great name is bringing a greater responsibility for present and future Pakistan Navy Submariners.