Place of birth : West Bengal
Last Rank : Lt Cdr
Unit : INS Khukri
Arm/Regt : Indian Navy
Operation : Indo-Pak War 1971
Awards : Vir Chakra
Martyrdom : December 9, 1971
Lieutenant Commander Rajat Kumar Sen hailed from Kolkata in West Bengal and was born in the year of 1936. He was commissioned into the Indian Navy and got trained as a Logistic officer.
Indian Naval Operations (Indo-Pak War): 09 Dec 1971
When the Indo-Pak War of 1971 broke out, Lt Cdr Rajat Kumar Sen was serving aboard INS Khukri, a Blackwood-class frigate of Indian Navy. It was part of the 14th Frigate Squadron of the Western Fleet, consisting of five ships with other four ships being INS Kirpan, INS Kalveti, INS Krishna and INS Kuthar. The 14th Frigate Squadron had the responsibility of hunting and neutralizing enemy submarines in the North Arabian Sea. The Indian Naval radio detection equipment identified a submarine in the vicinity of Diu harbour on 03rd Dec 1971. Unfortunately, one of the flotilla’s ships INS Kuthar developed a problem and on around 05 December, it was escorted back to harbour. Naval Headquarters ordered the Western Fleet to hunt and destroy the enemy submarine detected in Indian waters near Diu. This order was passed on to the commander of the F-14 Squadron, Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla. The squadron was, however, now reduced to two anti-submarine frigates, INS Kuthar not being available.
The two anti-submarine frigates left Bombay for their mission on 08 December and by the morning of 09 December were approaching the reported location of the enemy submarine. This was the ‘Hunter-Killer Force’ according to the TAS (Torpedo and Anti-Submarine specialists) of Western Naval Command. In the late evening of 9th December, INS Khukri was attacked by the Pakistani submarine PNS Hangoor which fired torpedoes at it, causing devastating damage. What made the Indian vessel an easy target for enemy torpedoes was the presence of experimental sonar equipment aboard that had been specially deployed for research. The limitations placed by this equipment had drastically slowed down the movement of INS Khukri to the submarine-detectable speed of 12 knots. Also, INS Khukri‘s sonar set had a detection range of up to 3,000 yards, whereas PNS Hangor could fire from distances of nearly six kilometers.
The captain of INS Khukri, Capt Mahendra Nath Mulla evaluated the situation within minutes and issued orders for its abandonment. There were two massive explosions inside the Khukri and the ship went dark. It lost all power and began to tilt steeply to its right (Starboard) as chaos followed the order of ‘abandon ship’. On realizing the danger to his men, Lt Cdr Sen went below the deck to get his men to safety. In the meantime, the ship was hit by another torpedo. Despite the fact that the chances of his survival were getting less every second, he continued to help his men to safety. INS Khukri sank within minutes, taking 176 sailors and 18 officers, and the ship’s captain, to their watery graves in the Arabian Sea. During the last minutes of his life, Lt Cdr Rajat Kumar Sen showed extraordinary courage, helping save as many of his men as he could and not abandoning his vessel.
Lt Cdr Rajat Kumar Sen was given the gallantry award, “Vir Chakra” for his commendable bravery, devotion to duty and supreme sacrifice. He is survived by his wife Smt Anita Sen and brother Shri Ranjan Sen.
The citation for the “Vir Chakra” awarded to him reads :
Lieutenant Commander Rajat Kumar Sen was the supply officer of the INS Khukri, which sank in the Arabian Sea after a Pakistani submarine attack. On 9 December whilst carrying out an anti-submarine hunt, Khukri was hit by a torpedo. On realizing the danger to his men, Lieutenant Commander Sen went below to get his men to safety. In the meantime, the ship was hit by another torpedo. Despite the fact that the chances of his survival were getting less every second, he continued to help his men to safety and in so doing made the supreme sacrifice.
Throughout, Lieutenant Commander Sen displayed courage and devotion to duty of a high order.