INS Viraat: Important and Interesting Facts

INS Viraat, the world's longest-serving warship was decommissioned by the Indian Navy three years ago, has arrived off the Alang coast in Gujarat for dismantling as per the official. The final journey of the aircraft began from the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai on Saturday (19 September, 2020) and reached the waters at Alang in Bhavnagar district on Monday evening (21 September, 2020). At the ship breaking yard, it will be dismantled in Alang and then sold as scrap.

Important Facts about INS Viraat

The Grand Old Lady of Indian Navy was decommissioned in 2017 after 30 years of service with the Indian Navy and around 27 years prior to that in British Royal Navy.

History of INS Viraat

- In November 1959, the ship was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS (Her Majesty's Ship) Hermes, close to one and half decades after its keel was laid. 

- The ship operated three fixed-wing planes and a chopper during her service with the Royal Navy.

- INS Viraat was a Centaur class aircraft carrier.

- Its weight was 27,800 tonnes and served the British Navy as HMS Hermes for 25 years from November 1959 to April 1984.

- After refurbishment, it was commissioned into the Indian Navy in May 1987.

- The last of the light fleet carrier designs was the Centaur class of aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy. It was started during the closing years of World War II.

- During the Falklands War in 1982 against the Argentinian forces, she was also part of the key formation of the British forces.

- In May 1987, the ship underwent a major refit and modernisation before being commissioned into the Indian Navy as INS (Indian Naval Ship) Viraat, which means enormous.

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Service in Indian Navy

The Motto of the ship was the Sanskrit phrase 'Jalamev Yashya, Balamev Tasya'. It means 'who controls the sea is powerful.'

In 30 years long service with the Indian Navy in addition to the one prior to commissioning, the ship was capable of a maximum speed of 28 knots and underwent three major refits. Also some smaller ones.

In 1989, during the Sri Lankan Peacekeeping operation, INS Viraat played a major role in Operation Jupiter. 

In fact, the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters 'Dhruv' and the Russian twin rotor Kamov-31 have also operated from the ship.

During the service of the ship, it operated one fixed-wing aircraft British mase Sea Harriers and three helicopters namely Anti Submarine aircraft Sea King Mk 42B, Sea King Mk 42C, Chetak on board.

In 1990, the ship was affiliated with the Garhwal Rifles and Scouts of the Indian Army. 

During 2001-02, the ship also deployed in operation Parakram following the terror attack on the Indian Parliament.

Let us tell you that there had been demands from several quarters to not let Viraat go the ay of Vikrant, India's first carrier that was eventually scrapped. INS Vikrant in 2014 played a role in the 1971 war with Pakistan and was broken down in Mumbai. 

As discussed above in March 2017, INS Viraat was decommissioned and the Navy had been incurring expenditure since then on its upkeep including electricity, water, and repairs. It was also taking up space in the crowded Naval dockyard.

She has played an important role in calibrating the flying activities from the carrier. This proved to be a great help at the time of induction of INS Vikramaditya the previously Admiral Gorshkov which is currently the sole aircraft carrier operated by Indian Navy. 

The weight of INS Viraat ship was 28,700 tonnes and Vikramaditya's 45,500 tonnes.

The Navy said at the time of decommissioning INS Viraat in March 2017 "Under the Indian Flag, the ship has clocked more than 22,622 flying hours by various aircraft and spent nearly 2252 days at sea sailing across 5,88,287 nautical miles or 10,94,215 kilometers. This implies that Viraat has spent seven years at sea, circumnavigating the globe 27 times. Since, her inception, she has had a total of 80,715 hours of boilers running."

"'Mother', as she was fondly referred to in the Navy, had been commanded by 22 captains since 1987. She was the Flagship of the Navy since her inception. Around 40 Flag officers including five Chiefs of Naval Staff were raised and groomed in her lap."

Decommissioning of INS Viraat

In early 2015, the Navy announced the decision to decommission Viraat with mounting operating costs and age.

Also, several attempts by the Navy to preserve the carrier, by converting it into a museum or by other means, failed.

Towards preserving the historic carrier and converting it into a museum, there were plans and even some movements were taken by the state governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh governments.

Towards the same goal, there were also crowdfunding efforts that were taken which were unsuccessful. However, after not receiving any concrete solution towards preservation, the Centre decided to auction the ship to be broken and sold as scrap.

Now the important thing to note is:

Indian has been operating a single carrier INS Vikramaditya since 2017 as against the minimum essential operational requirement of having two Carrier Battle Groups. These are the formations of ships and submarines with Aircraft Carriers at the lead role.

If we see then there is a displacement that is India's first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-I) INS Vikrant which has a displacement comparable to Vikramaditya is under construction at Kochi Shipyard and is soon expected to undergo sea trials. 

The Maritime Capability of Navy Perspective Plan looks at three carriers in total considering one of them requiring to be under refit.

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