Decommissioning ceremony of INS Viraat, India's oldest aircraft carrier

INS Viraat sailed for the last time under her own power from Mumbai to Kochi on July 23, 2016. Photograph:( WION )

WION Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Mar 06, 2017, 04.24 PM (IST)

Aircraft carrier INS Viraat was decommissioned this evening, at an impressive ceremony onboard the ship. In pics: Life & times of INS Viraat, India & the world's oldest aircraft carrier

The warship was decommissioned in the presence of Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba and top armed forces officials.
 

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World's oldest serving aircraft carrier, INS Viraat has been decommissioned after nearly 60 years of service with Britain and India. Here's more to this story (WION)

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India's oldest aircraft carrier sailed into sunset after 30 years with the Indian Navy. 

The ship, which was commissioned in 1959, spent 27 years in the Royal Navy of UK after which it was transferred to India in 1887.

It remains unclear whether the ship will be converted into a luxury hotel or head to the scrapyard to be broken up. The Navy wants INS Viraat to be converted into a diving spot or a museum. The Andhra Pradesh government wants the ship to be an entertainment hub in Visakhapatnam.

"We would like to have Viraat as a museum or a diving spot in Mumbai," the Navy chief told reporters after the ceremony.

A senior Navy official told PTI that the defence ministry is yet to take a decision on a proposal from the Andhra Pradesh government to convert it into an entertainment hub in Visakhapatnam through a joint venture with the Centre.

Asked about Andhra Pradesh government's proposal to convert the Viraat into a maritime museum, the Naval chief said the Navy would examine the proposal but the decision would be taken by the defence ministry.

"We will examine the proposal. But (on) financing it for the conversion, the decision will be taken by the defence ministry."

Asked whether there was a proposal from two-wheeler manufacturer Bajaj Auto, the navy chief said, "I have not heard of any such proposal."

The Defence Ministry had asked all the coastal states to put forward proposals on INS Viraat, but only Andhra Pradesh proposed to convert it into an offshore luxury hotel and build a Marina along with an entertainment zone around it, a Navy official said. 

Viraat, which weighs about 27,800 tonnes, served in the Royal British Navy as HMS Hermes from November 1959 to April 1984. 

In 1882, it won the Falklands War against Argentina for the British Navy.

In the late 80s, Indian Navy purchased it at the cost of USD 65 million and was re-commissioned on May 12, 1987.

The ship served the Indian Navy in various capacities including 1989's 'Operation Jupiter' where it was a part of Indian Peace Keeping Operations in Sri Lanka. 

Viraat sailed for the last time under her own power from Mumbai to Kochi on July 23, 2016. She was dry-docked and prepared for decommissioning subsequently.

(WION with inputs from PTI)