INS Viraat Will Be Decommissioned Later This Year
(Source: DNA India; published July 20, 2016)
By Ateeq Shaikh
MUMBAI --- India's second aircraft carrier INS Viraat to leave Mumbai this Saturday on her final journey to history

After serving two naval forces for as many as 58 years, India's second aircraft carrier Indian Naval Ship (INS) Viraat is getting relegated to a piece of history. For this, she will sail for a final time – powered by her own boilers – from Mumbai to Kochi.

As per the schedule, Viraat will embark on its final journey this weekend (July 23) when it leaves for southern India and reach Kochi on July 27 (Wednesday), where it will be berthed with the Southern Naval Command, said a naval officer.

There are plans to decommission it later this year, possibly in November. Thereafter, the fate of the 226.5-metre-long warship is unknown. Although the ministry of defence has called for proposals from several coastal states to convert this maritime heritage into a tourism pad, it is yet to freeze the proposal.

As per a rough estimate, around Rs 400 crore will be required to give a new life to INS Viraat. It was bought from the United Kingdom and commissioned by India in May 1987. Before that it was known as HMS Hermes with the Royal Navy and had served in its fleet for 25 years, from November 1959 to April 1984.

A precursor to INS Viraat's final leg of life was de-induction of its aircraft fleet of Sea Harriers. On May 6, this year, the Sea Harriers fighter aircraft flew for the last time from the flying deck of INS Viraat. Two days later, on May 8 the fleet was given a farewell at INS Hansa in Goa.

Sea Harriers flew into the Indian Navy in 1983 after Sea Hawk fighters were phased out in 1978. Sea Harriers were an integral part of INS Viraat as well as the earlier INS Vikrant.

Due to Mumbai's strategic importance, INS Viraat was part of sword arm of the Indian Navy – the Western Naval Command.

Maharashtra government had failed to convert the opportunity to save India's first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant into a museum and part of tourist circuit. Finally, in November 2014, the dismantling of the ship had commenced and one of the automobile companies bought its iron to mould motorcycles.

Nation's third aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, was bought from Russia and commissioned into Indian Navy in November 2013. It will serve the nation for another two decades. Meanwhile, construction is underway for a new aircraft carrier, which will be titled INS Vikrant. The vessel is being made at Cochin Shipyard and is expected to get commissioned in 2018.

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INS Viraat Sails On Her Own Steam for One Last Time
(Source: Indian Ministry of Defence; issued July 23, 2016)
The aircraft carrier, INS Viraat set sail for Kochi this afternoon for Essential Repairs and Dry Docking (ERDD) at the Cochin Shipyard. This is the last sailing under her own propulsion as INS Viraat is slated for decommissioning later this year.

Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command and other senior officers of the command, visited the ship and interacted with the crew prior to her departure. The carrier was escorted out of harbour by Fast Interceptor Craft and helicopters from the Western Naval Command. It was indeed an emotional moment for the Navy, as INS Viraat leaves Naval Dockyard Mumbai, for ‘one last time’ under own power. The ship will be towed back to Mumbai on completion of ERDD, for the decommissioning ceremony later this year.

INS Viraat was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 12 May 1987. The ship operated Sea Harrier (White Tigers - fighter aircraft), Sea King 42B (Harpoons - Anti Submarine helicopters) & Sea King 42C (Commando Carrier helicopters) and Chetak (Angles - SAR helicopter) as her main air elements. The Sea Harrier fleet was also recently decommissioned at Goa in May 16.

Under the Indian Flag, various aircrafts have flown more than 22,034 hours from the decks of INS Viraat. 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. She played a major role in the Operation Jupiter in 1989 (Indian peace-keeping operations in Sri Lanka) and Operation Vijay in the year 1999 (Kargil War). The ship has also participated in various international joint exercises like Malabar (with US Navy), Varuna (with French Navy), Naseem-Al-Bahar (with Oman Navy) and has been an integral element of all major naval exercises.

The last operational deployment of the ship was for participation in International Fleet Review (IFR-2016) at Visakhapatnam. Having served the country and the Navy for nearly three decades, INS Viraat handed over the mantle of carrier operations to INS Vikramaditya which was commissioned in the year 2013.

The second aircraft carrier of the country has spent 29 years under the Indian Flag and 27 years with the Royal Navy (United Kingdom). The ship holds the Guinness Record for being the oldest serving warship. INS Viraat is a Centaur-Class Aircraft Carrier and served in the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes, which was the flag ship of Royal Navy during the Falk Lands Campaign of 1982. She is commonly referred to as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ among the Naval community.

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