INS Viraat (Sanskrit: Virāṭa meaning Giant) was a Centaur-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. INS Viraat was the flagship of the Indian Navy before INS Vikramaditya was commissioned in 2013.The ship was completed and commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy's HMS Hermes, and decommissioned in 1984. It was sold to India in 1987. INS Viraat was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 12 May 1987, and served for almost 30 years.
INS Viraat (R22) in 2002
|Recommissioned:||12 May 1987|
|Decommissioned:||6 March 2017|
|Out of service:||23 July 2016|
|Refit:||April 1986, July 1999, Mid-2003-November 2004, August 2008-November 2009, November 2012-July 2013|
|Identification:||Pennant number: R22|
|Motto:||Jalameva Yasya, Balameva Tasya (Sanskrit: "He who rules over the seas is all powerful")|
|Nickname(s):||Grand Old Lady|
|Status:||Decommissioned 6 March 2017|
|Name:||HMS Hermes (R12)|
|Laid down:||21 June 1944|
|Launched:||16 February 1953|
|Commissioned:||25 November 1959|
|Identification:||pennant number: R12|
|Fate:||Sold to India in 1986|
|Class and type:||Centaur-class aircraft carrier|
|Length:||226.5 m (743 ft)|
|Beam:||48.78 m (160.0 ft)|
|Draught:||8.8 m (29 ft)|
|Propulsion:||2 × Parsons geared steam turbines; 4 boilers with 400 psi, 76,000 shp (57,000 kW)|
|Speed:||28 knots (52 km/h)|
|Range:||6,500 mi (10,500 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)|
|Sensors and |
|Electronic warfare |
In February 2015, the Navy stated that Viraat would be decommissioned the following year. The last British-built ship serving with the Indian Navy, she was the oldest aircraft carrier in service in the world. On 23 July 2016, Viraat sailed for the last time under her own power from Mumbai to Kochi, where she was dry-docked and prepared for decommissioning. She was towed out of Kochi on 23 October, returning to Mumbai on 28 October, where she was laid up. Viraat was formally decommissioned on 6 March 2017. It was proposed that the carrier be converted to a museum with hotel but that option was ruled-out on 1 July 2019 for reasons of economics and public safety.
INS Viraat had a 14° ski jump to operate the Sea Harrier along with a reinforced flight deck, and 1.2 inches (3 cm) of armour over the magazines and machinery spaces. The magazine capacity included at least 80 lightweight torpedoes. The vessel retained commando transport capability for up to 750 troops and carried four LCVP landing craft in the aft section. In a wartime scenario, the ship could carry up to 26 combat aircraft and was suited for supporting amphibious operations and conducting ASW operations.
The aircraft on board INS Viraat were operated by four squadrons of the Naval air arm of the Indian Navy:
|INAS 300||White Tigers||BAE Sea Harrier|
|INAS 552||The Braves||BAE Sea Harrier|
|INAS 321||Angels||Alouette III |
|INAS 330||Harpoons||Westland Sea King|
Primary strike aircraft have been the Sea Harriers operating several modern missiles such as the British anti-ship Sea Eagle missile, and the French Matra Magic missile for air-to-air combat. Other ordnance has included 68 mm rockets, runway-denial bombs, cluster bombs, and podded 30 mm cannon. In 2006, the Indian Navy started the 'Limited Upgrade Sea Harrier (LUSH)' program by upgrading up to 15 Sea Harriers in collaboration with Israel by installing the Elta EL/M-2032 radar and the Rafael 'Derby' medium-range air-to-air BVR missile.
All Sea Harrier operations from the deck of INS Viraat ceased on 6 May 2016 following the retirement of Harrier fleet.
INS Viraat was originally commissioned by the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on 18 November 1959, 15 years after she was laid down in June 1944. She served as the flagship of the Royal Navy's task force during the Falklands War in 1982 and was decommissioned from active duty in 1985. In April 1986, Hermes was towed from Portsmouth Dockyard to Devonport Dockyard to be refitted, re-activated and sold to India.
After evaluating vessels from several countries, the Indian Navy purchased the vessel in April 1986 and gave her an extensive refit at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, England, to allow for continued carrier operations into the next decade. New fire control equipment, navigation radars, improved NBC protection, and deck landing aids were installed in this refit. Boilers were converted to operate on distillate fuel.
India Today in 1988 reported that then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi went to the Bangaram Atoll in Lakshadweep on a holiday with his family and other prominent politicians and media persons on board the INS Viraat. The allegation has been refuted by a retired Indian Navy officer, Retired Commodore Ajay Chitnis, who was involved in planning former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's 1987 Lakshadweep trip.
In September 1993, the engine room of the ship was flooded, putting the vessel out of service for several months. The vessel was back in service in 1995 and was fitted with a new search radar. Between July 1999 and April 2001, the ship completed another life-extension refit expected to extend her serviceability until 2010. This refit upgraded propulsion systems, added a package of sensors to sound emergency alerts and introduced modern communication systems. In addition, a long-range surveillance radar, weapon systems, and a new hangar with fire curtains were installed.
The ship underwent a fourth refit in Indian service from January to August 2009 at Cochin Shipyard, Kochi. The refit was expected to ensure her continued service in the Indian Navy until 2015, and the ship went through exercises in the Arabian Sea for a month and a half before being deployed to the Gulf of Aden. Navy officers later reported that the carrier might be kept in service until 2020, as two Indigenous Aircraft Carriers (IACs) seemed likely to be fully operational by then. On 12 July 2011, the ship arrived at Cochin shipyard for a short refit scheduled to be completed in two months and it was repainted. Indian Navy indicated that the ship could remain in service until 2020, provided that there are still Sea Harriers available for ship-borne operations.
On 2 November 2012, the ship arrived in Kochi for the first part of a major two-phase refit. In the first phase, the hull was cleaned, probed for corrosion, worn hull plates were reinforced and received a fresh coat of corrosion-resistant paint. The carrier sailed to Mumbai for further upgrades to her machinery before rejoining the fleet in the summer of 2013. The refit would enable her to serve through 2016 and was the final major refit before her decommissioning. In August–September 2015, the ship underwent a short refit to reinforce her hull and inspection before her participation in the International Fleet Review in February 2016.
By 2013, Viraat's age and cost of maintenance prompted the navy to begin the process to obtain Defence Ministry clearance for her decommissioning; in December 2014, a review board was established to determine the ship's continued service life.
In February 2015, the navy announced plans to decommission the ship in 2016 and began the process to obtain Defence Ministry clearance for the carrier's decommissioning. In July 2015, it was announced that the ship would be transferred to the Government of Andhra Pradesh for conversion into a museum ship at a cost of ₹20 crore (US$3 million) with Chandrababu Naidu, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh confirming the same on 8 February 2016. By April 2016, however, the plans had apparently fallen through.
On 23 July 2016, Viraat sailed from Mumbai to Kochi for the last time under her own steam; by then, she had spent a total of 2,250 days at sea and had steamed a total of 1,094,215 kilometers. At Kochi, she underwent a month-long deactivation in preparation for decommissioning; during this period, her boilers, engines, propellers and rudders were removed. Deactivation was completed on 4 September, and the carrier was towed back to Mumbai on 23 October for her formal decommissioning ceremony. Viraat arrived in Mumbai on 28 October and was laid up. On 6 March 2017, she was decommissioned. After Viraat's decommissioning, her weapons systems and operational equipment were to have been removed by mid-2017.
|S.No.||Name||Assumed Office||Left Office|
|1||Captain Vinod Pasricha||12 May 1987||15 December 1988|
|2||Captain Madhvendra Singh||15 December 1988||30 August 1990|
|3||Captain Arun Prakash||30 August 1990||26 December 1991|
|4||Captain Madanjit Singh||26 December 1991||21 March 1993|
|5||Captain Yashwant Prasad||21 March 1993||28 September 1994|
|6||Captain J S Bedi||28 September 1994||13 October 1995|
|7||Captain Vijay Shankar||13 October 1995||8 November 1996|
|8||Captain Nirmal Kumar Verma||8 November 1996||13 December 1997|
|9||Captain S K Damle||13 December 1997||15 June 2000|
|10||Captain R F Contractor||15 June 2000||18 December 2001|
|11||Captain Devendra Kumar Joshi||18 December 2001||7 January 2003|
|12||Captain Anil Chopra||7 January 2003||6 January 2004|
|13||Captain Pradeep Chauhan||6 January 2004||31 May 2005|
|14||Captain Surinder Pal Singh Cheema||6 January 2004||31 May 2005|
|15||Captain Girish Luthra||31 May 2005||1 August 2007|
|16||Captain Abhay Raghunath Karve||1 August 2007||27 December 2008|
|17||Captain Anil Kumar Chawla||27 December 2008||6 August 2010|
|18||Captain R. Hari Kumar||6 August 2010||15 November 2011|
|19||Captain Ajendra Bahadur Singh||15 November 2011||1 June 2013|
|20||Captain Biswajit Dasgupta||1 June 2013|
|21||Captain Rajesh Pendharkar||13 July 2016|
|22||Captain Puneet Chadha||13 July 2016||26 February 2017|
At the time of decommissioning, Viraat's eventual fate remained undetermined. A British businessman's proposal to preserve the ship failed when its crowdfunding campaign failed to make a tenth of its goal and it was stated that if Viraat was not to be preserved, she would be scrapped.
On 1 November 2018 the Maharashtra cabinet approved the conversion of Viraat into India's first moored maritime museum and marine adventure centre. It would be located near Nivati, Sindhudurg district. The response of the Indian Navy was skeptical.
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