She spent almost seven years at sea in her 30 years of service with the Indian Navy and has covered the globe 27 times. And now, INS Viraat is all set to be decommissioned on March 6.
“INS Viraat is the second centaur class aircraft carrier in service, which has spent 30 years in the Indian Navy and before that 27 years in the Royal Navy of UK. After the decommissioning of INS Viraat, we will be short of two aircraft carriers as INS Vikrant has already been decommissioned,” the flag officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Naval Command said.
Earlier known as HMS Hermes, the aircraft carrier served in the Royal Navy for 27 years after it was commissioned by the British Navy on November 18, 1959.
Between 1959 and 1970 Hermes served as one of the Royal Navy’s four Strike Carriers, mainly operating in the Indian Ocean. She was the flagship of the Royal Navy during the Falklands Campaign, which was fought between Great Britain and Argentina in 1982 after the latter invaded the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. She was later decommissioned in 1984.
“The next aircraft carrier is under construction at Cochin. It will be named Vikrant. As per the contract with the Cochin Shipyard, the ship will commence trials by end-2018 or early 2019,” Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command, on board INS Viraat, said, according to DNA.
“There is a proposal for converting the ship (INS Viraat) into a maritime museum. We are expecting a final decision from the Ministry of Defence very soon,” he added.
Referred to as the Grand Old Lady, she was commissioned into the Indian Navy on May 12, 1987 at Plymouth, United Kingdom, by Dr. P. C. Alexander, High Commissioner of India to UK.
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It was commissioned as the Indian Navy was in need of a second aircraft carrier in the early 1980s since INS Vikrant was nearing the end of her service life.
It was sold to India for £63 million and was given the name INS Viraat. The second aircraft carrier of the country, she has spent about 30 years under the Indian flag. The ship, whose crest depicts an eagle with five arrows – symbolising air power (eagle) and the ship’s versatile weapon capability — holds the Guinness Record for being the oldest-serving warship.
According to the Indian Navy, “she has spent nearly 2,250 days at sea sailing 5,88,288 NM (10,94,215 km). This implies that Viraat has been at sea for over six years covering the entire globe about 27 times.”
INS Viraat played a pivotal role in the Indian peacekeeping operations in Sri Lanka (Operation Jupiter, 1989) and also the 1999 Kargil War. While in service, she also participated in various international joint exercises, and her last operational deployment was in the International Fleet Review (IFR-2016) at Visakhapatnam.
Manned by 150 officers and 1,500 sailors, the total length of the carrier is 226.5m and measures 48.78 meters in breadth. The carrier also has a room named after Prince Charles, where the prince himself resided when he had joined flying duties from HMS Hermes in 1975 as a helicopter pilot.
INS Viraat’s motto – “Jalamev Yasya, Balamev Tasya” (One Who Controls the Sea is All Powerful) aptly sums up her glorious career.
The aircraft carrier had sailed to Kochi on July 23 last year on her last sail for repairs and drydocking before being sent for decommissioning to Mumbai.