After nearly six decades in service, India’s majestic aircraft carrier INS Viraat will set sail for the last time from Mumbai to Kochi this week, powered by its own boilers before it is decommissioned.
Once the ship berths itself with the Southern Naval Command on July 27 after sailing out from Mumbai on July 23, all valuable equipment on board like engines, radars, guns will be dismantled to prepare it for the decommissioning. The ship will then be towed back to Mumbai where it will be decommissioned.
However, it is still not clear what will happen to the ship, which was India’s sole aircraft carrier for over a decade once it is decommissioned. Though there is a proposal to develop it into an adventure tourism centre or a museum, no decision has so far been taken by the Defence Ministry.
Military experts and enthusiasts hope that Viraat will not go the way INS Vikrant did. The ship, which took part the 1971 war, was sold as a scrap and disposed of shocking many. Viraat had first served British Navy for over 30 Years before being bought by India. Viraat was originally commissioned by British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on November 18, 1959.
It served as the flagship of Royal Navy’s task force during the Falkland Islands campaign in 1982 and was decommissioned from active duty in 1985. It was inducted into Indian Navy in 1987 after undergoing extensive refits.
A precursor to the world’s oldest operating aircraft carrier was the de-induction of its aircraft fleet of Sea Harriers in May this year.
On May 6 this year, Sea Harriers fighter aircraft flew for the last time from the flying deck of INS Viraat and two days later, the fleet was given a farewell at INS Hansa in Goa. Sea Harriers were an integral part of INS Viraat as well as INS Vikrant.