Most people in Pakistan do not know about the significant and backdrop of HANGOR day because of the association of this day with the naval domain.
Maritime domain, naval warfare or security at seas are not popularly discussed or concerned by people of Pakistan including academics, policy professionals, and research development communities. Ocean governance or maritime studies broadly contain the area of naval warfare as its component. Maritime studies are not streamlined in the education, policy development and strategic calculations of Pakistan commiserating parallel to continental development and land warfare studies. Therefore, Pakistan often refers to as sea-blind nation because it has long ignored the ocean governance and maritime policy development on national agendas and policies. However, Pakistan recently realizes the potential of oceans and is now experiencing the evolution of Maritime Domain Awareness. Therefore, most events, concepts, policies pertaining to oceans and dynamics of naval warfare are mostly oblivious to people of Pakistan.
HANGOR day is one of those events which have inked the brave chapter in history of Pakistan. HANGOR Day is celebrated on 9th December to pay homage to the brave war veterans waged the India Pakistan war of 1971 at the Arabian sea of the Indian Ocean. The war veterans of Pakistan navy changed the battle vantage at sea with implausible maneuvering of one submarine. The name of submarine was HANGOR. It is in this context that 9th December referred to as HANGOR day which is one of the celebrated days in history of Pakistan’s navy.
During the war of 1971, the HANGOR outmaneuvered India’s ships namely ‘ASW Frigate INS KHUKRI’ and ‘INS KIRPAN’ with the one submarine equipped with limited technology, operational tools and resources. In this maneuvering, the former ship was destroyed and later was damaged enough to render it irrelevant during the course of war. This war action is accentuated remarkably in naval history of the world and regarded as being the first ever kill of Indian air craft career by a conventional submarine after World War-II. HANGOR submarine till to date considered being the only conventional submarine in the world which have this distinction. According to reports, Indian navy envisaged the plan of attack on Karachi harbor on the night of 5th December, 1971. However, the presence of HANGOR rendered the plan of attack redundant and made the Indian Fleet to split-up and moved to far south that it was no longer in a position to execute its envisaged attack plans. According to the description of Captain (R) Amir Iqbal his article “PNS/M HANGOR continued her patrol and in an effort to locate the evasive enemy, she extended her patrol northwards to investigate some intercepted radio transmissions. Consequently, when she was off the Kathiawar coast in the early hours of 9 December; two contacts were picked up on her passive sonar on a north-easterly bearing.
They were identified as warships by their sonar transmissions and were at a radar range of 6 to 8 miles. The two contacts were appreciated to be two anti-submarine frigates engaged in SAU (Search and Attack Unit) operations doing a rectangular anti-submarine search and thus a pursuit of the enemy began”.
HANGOR was not detected by Indian sonar and enjoyed the element of surprise which is considered to be the cornerstone of war dimensions. HANGOR continued her approach and after aiming at target, it commenced the attack by firing one homing torpedo at INS Kirpan. The torpedo could not hit the target and failed to explode. The element of surprise was lost when torpedo passed under INS Kirpan. The HANGOR crew kept their nerves cool and shifted target to KHUKRI and fired the second torpedo at it.
The torpedo went straight for the target and exploded under the keel and broke the keel of INS KHUKRI which sank in a matter of few minutes, with all personals on board. Reportedly, more than half and dozen officers and one hundred and fifty sailors including the Commanding Officer lost their lives. It was a shattering blow to the Indian Navy which not only changed the outlook of battle at sea between two navies but also diminished the morale of Indian forces during the war. This day mark the achievement of Pakistan navy in history of naval warfare and celebrated as HANGOR day in Pakistan.
Baber Ali : Senior Research Fellow at Maritime Study Forum