The world’s oldest aircraft carrier in active service, INS Viraat, will be decommissioned on Monday after serving the Indian Navy for nearly 30 years. The decommissioning ceremony will be attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and other dignitaries. The grand event will see the lowering and wrap-up of the naval flag installed on the warship at sunset, marking an end to a long sea odyssey lasting 55 years.
INS Viraat was earlier known as HMS Hermes. It initially served the British Royal Navy for around 27 years. In the late 80s, Indian Navy purchased it at the cost of $65 million and was re-commissioned on May 12, 1987. After the decommissioning of INS Viraat, the Indian Navy will be short of two aircraft carriers as INS Vikrant has already been decommissioned.
It is referred as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ in the naval community. The ship spent nearly 2,250 days at sea, sailing 5,88,288 nautical miles. INS Viraat sailed under her own power for the last time from Mumbai to Kochi in July 2016. In October 2016, she was towed out of Kochi and returned to Mumbai. The decision on the warship’s future has not been taken yet. But the warship would be possibly converted into a museum, hotel or will be preserved as a relic of maritime history.
As per the earlier reports, talks were underway with the Andhra Pradesh government to convert INS Viraat, into a luxury hotel-cum-museum after its decommissioning. The ship operated Sea Harrier (White Tigers – fighter aircrafts), Seaking 42B (Harpoons Anti-Submarine helicopters), Seaking 42C (Commando Carrier helicopters) and Chetak (Angles-SAR helicopter) as her main air elements.
INS Viraat was involved in her first major operation – ‘Operation Jupiter’ – in July 1989 as a part of Indian Peace Keeping Operations in Sri Lanka. She also played a pivotal role in ‘Operation Parakram’ undertaken after the terrorist attack on Parliament in December 2001.