During the 70s, Indian military strategist were assuming the war clouds before there was even an inkling of a war. As Sun Tzu quoted, the war is won even before the first soldier enters in the battlefield. It needs right preparation at the right time.
Indian Navy was planning the same thing during the summer of 1970s when a group of group of 40 officers and 18 non-commissioned men were sent to the headquarter of Soviet Pacific Fleet, Vladivostok, Russia. It was one of the largest naval fleets in the world of its time. Pacific fleet was also the headquarter of Maritime Missile Warfare, which was a new warfare at that time.
The secret group of sailors were learning the Russian language since four months, and now they were sent to attend eight months of extensive technical training in Vladivostok. Among all the sailors, there was Missile and Gunner Officer Sri Rama Rao Gandikota, who had no idea that he will create history one day.
Indian Navy secretly commissioned eight new Russian Osa class missile boats armed with the highly sophisticated missile, “STYNX Anti-Ship Missile”. Some people in Indian Navy had a clue about what was happening.
Due to West-Pakistan’s atrocities, India jumped in the war to help East-Pakistan(Now Bangladesh). India’s interference triggered a third war between India and Pakistan. The chief of all three services had a meeting and the naval chief, S.M. Nanda got permissions to target Karachi Port. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wanted to see the preparation first-hand.
The Indian navy chief agreed and a missile firing session was organized 15 nautical miles off the coast of Mumbai and it destroyed a target at the range of 40 nautical miles. Sri Rama Rao Gandikota was the one behind the wheels, he pressed the launch button and became the first sailor in the history of the Indian Navy to fire a missile from an Indian naval warship.
The squadron was named, “Killer Squadron”. On the night of 4th December 1971, Indian Navy’s killer squadron started moving towards Karachi port. The missile boats who were in Vidyut-class missile boats, three of eight missile boat, INS Nipat, INS Nirghat and INS Veer were deployed off the coast of Okha. The missile boats have limited operational and radar range, hence, they were escorted by two Arnala-class anti-submarine corvettes: the INS Kiltan and INS Katchall, and a fleet tanker, the INS Poshak. The group was under the command of Commander Babru Bhan Yadav, the commanding officer of the 25th Missile Boat Squadron.
On the night of 4th and 5th December 1971, Indian Navy launched around 12 Anti-Ship missiles and much other ammunition were dropped on Karachi post. Indian Navy completely destroyed Karachi port, including 2 PN vessel and damaged a vessel so badly that they scrapped it. The destruction was so ferocious that many people consider it as “biggest bloody blaze in the whole of South Asia”.
Explaining his experience in Russia, Gandikota shared with Rbth that he made many friends in Russia but they are secretive and they don’t share much at work. There is not even any light banter or jokes. The Russians have a habit of having beers and vodka on weekends. He got to know about a Russian officer who had habit of stamp collection and they became friends and he was invited to his place. When the course got over, the course mates got a chance to travel to Russia for sight-seeing.