There are plans to decommission it later this year, possibly in November
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 on July 23 when it leaves for southern India and reach Kochi on July 27, 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 (60 miilion Dollars approximately) 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.
LIFE AS HMS HERMES (ROYAL NAVY)
LAUNCHED : February 1953
COMMISSIONED : November 1959
DECOMMISSIONED : April 1984
SERVED ROYAL NAVY : Over 24 Years
LIFE AS INS VIRAAT (INDIAN NAVY)
COMMISSIONED : May 1987
DECOMMISSIONED : Later in 2016
SERVING INDIAN NAVY : Over 29 Years