The Type 14 Blackwood class was produced in the 1950's as a cheaper utility ASW frigate to solely hunt submarines, a task at which they excelled at the time. They were only just over 1/2 the size of the contemporary Type 12 Whitby class and had only 1/2 of their powerplant. They could, however, attain a speed of 27 knots, which made them perfectly adequate to chase and localise the submarines of the era.
The arrival by 1961 of the British anti submarine frigates TRISHUL, TALWAR, KHUKRI, KUTHAR and KIRPAN had increased the maximum sonar detection range from the earlier few hundred metres, to a few thousand metres; the range of their anti submarine weapons had increased from a few dozen metres to a few hundred meters.
The Pakistan Navy's acquisition of "silent" Daphne class submarines made it unlikely that they could be detected on passive sonars. The vagaries of hydrology in the Arabian Sea favoured the submarine because the temperature layers in the sea refracted a ship's sonar transmissions. The range of the Daphne's class submarine's latest homing torpedoes exceeded by far the maximum detection range and the weapon range of the Navy's anti submarine frigates. There was, therefore, a pressing need for longer range sonars, longer range homing torpedoes, and variable depth/dunking sonar which could overcome hydrological constraints.
The 14th Frigate Squadron KHUKRI, KUTHAR and KIRPAN had sailed with the Western Fleet on 2 December 1971. KUTHAR suffered a boiler explosion on PM 4 December. FOCWEF detached KIRPAN to tow KUTHAR back to Bombay escorted by Captain F 14 in KHUKRI. Enroute to Bombay, at midday on 05 December 1971, KHUKRI carried out an attack on a submarine, recorded the entire attack and explosions on tape and signalled that she considered the submarine destroyed [which was in fact not the case].
During the 1971 war, Pakistan Navy's latest Daphne class submarines were far superior to not only Indian submarines and surface ships. The French Daphne class submarines were the most modern conventional submarines, with sensors and armament far superior to not only our submarine but also our anti submarine frigates. This is how the KHUKRI was detected by a Daphne much before the frigate became aware of the submarine's presence.
On 2 December 1971, the Pakistani submarine HANGOR sighted the Western Fleet which was on its way to its patrol area. HANGOR reported this to Karachi and continued her patrol off Bombay. By the evening of 9 December, she was able to make out the pattern of their movement by tracking them with the aid of her sensors. The ships were carrying out a rectangular anti-submarine search.
Unaware of the submarine's presence, the frigates continued on their track. At 1957, HANGOR fired a down-the-throat shot with a homing torpedo at the northerly ship from a depth of 40 metres. The torpedo was tracked but no explosion was heard. This was not the time to brood over the situation. The control team sprang into action and fired a second torpedo. After five tense minutes, a tremendous explosion was heard at 2019 hours. The torpedo had found its mark.
In this spectacular action which took place about 30 miles south of Diu off the Indian Kathiawar coast, KHUKRI, the ship of the Squadron Commander of the 14th Frigate Squadron, was sunk within two minutes after receiving a hit in the magazine where explosives were stowed. 18 officers and 176 sailors including the Commanding Officer, who deliberately stayed back on the sinking ship, lost their lives. This came as a shattering blow to the Indian Navy, deflating in one stroke the exuberance generated by highly exaggerated success stories of the missile attacks at ships off Karachi.
Capt Mahendra Nath Mullah, recipient of Maha Vir Chakra (posthumous) of the Indian Navy was the commanding officer of Khukri who chose to go down with the warship. The act of Capt Mullah and his crew is a shining example of the unyielding spirit and indomitable courage glorifying the highest traditions of the Indian Navy. In memory of the ship crew who laid down lives for the country, a memorial named 'Khukri Memorial' was set up in Diu in 1999. The memorial depicts the scale model of the ship.
KIRPAN returned to pick up survivors and her course brought her in line with the submarine which promptly fired a third torpedo but the frigate was prepared for the attack and left at high speed. After 8 or 10 minutes a very clear explosion was heard followed by the stopping of the KIRPAN's machinery. HANGOR considered that he had hit the frigate, but he decided to abandon the attack and made for deep water. KIRPAN had a badly damaged stern and was unable to steam, she was finally towed into Bombay.
There followed three days of depth charge attacks by Shackeltons, Alizes and escorts. The submarine suffered 156 depth charges, most of which were a long way off. Every time the submarine used the schnorkel, it was spotted by aircraft, but the escorts led to the position by the aircraft never made contact. Finally the HANGOR managed to escape and carry on her mission.
This was the sole kill by any conventionally powered submarine in the fifty year period from 1950 to 2000.
The most important lesson that was learnt from the loss of the KHUKRI was that longer range sonars and longer range weapons had to be inducted if ships were to have a fighting chance against modern submarines and their long range homing torpedoes. Immediate action was taken to improve the anti submarine capability of the Leander Class frigates then under construction in Mazagon Docks at Bombay.
In September 2004, Shri Chanchal Singh, Ex-Chief Ship Wright Artificer (SWA) wrote a letter stating that news reports published in some newspapers/magazines regarding sinking of INS Khukari were partially incorrect which needed to be corrected. The essence of his letter was that when INS Khukari sank due to a torpedo hit by an enemy submarine, INS, Kirpan (which was deployed with INS, Khukari at that time) left the scene, without caring for the survivors of INS, Khukari. Shri Chanchal Singh saved many of the drowning sailors of INS, Khukari, for which he should have been given a Gallantry award.
The Gallantry and other awards are given on merit and cannot be claimed as a matter of right. Regarding the incident of sinking of INS, Khukari, deeds of all the Naval personnel on board were duly evaluated by the Naval authorities. Shri Chanchal Singh's dedication to duty & courage on board INS, Khukari was also considered and he was given a one time cash award of Rs 50,000. He was, however, not found deserving for a Gallantry award.
|Range||miles @ knots|
|Khukri||20 Nov 1956||sunk 09 Dec 1971|
|Kirpan||19 Aug 1958||to Coast Guard 1978|
|Kuthar||14 Oct 1958||to Coast Guard 1978|
|Khutar||P 46||Bombay||Mazagon||07 Jun 1990|
|Kirpan||P 44||Vishakapatnam||Garden Reach||12 Jan 1991|
|Khanjar||P 47||Vishakapatnam||Garden Reach||22 Oct 1991|
|Project 25A Kora Class Modified Khukri|
|Kora||Garden Reach||10 Aug 1998|
|Kirch||Garden Reach||22 Jan 2001|
|Kulish||Garden Reach||20 Aug 2001|
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