INS Viraat, the Guinness Record holder for the world’s oldest aircraft carrier, will be decommissioned at sunset today (March 6, 2017) with a ceremonial send-off in Mumbai nearly after six decades in service.
The decommissioning ceremony will be attended by India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and will mark an end to a glorious chapter in the Indian Navy’s history. The grand event will see the lowering and wrap-up of the naval flag installed on the warship at sunset. 21 of its 22 former commanders will be present today at the ceremony to bid a final farewell to 56 years of sea odyssey.
INS Viraat was inducted into the Indian Navy on May 12, 1987 and she has served the Indian Navy tirelessly for almost three decades – 27 years.
Prior to her entry into the Indian Naval Force, she had served Royal British Navy for 28 years as well. Built during the advent of Second World War, in 1943, upon completion of trials, she was commissioned into Royal Navy on November 18, 1959 as HMS Hermes.
INS Viraat, also famously known as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ has sailed 11 Lakh Kms, which is equivalent to encircling the globe 27 times.
In the three decades with the Indian Navy, Viraat has served as an armour and has provided utmost protection to the country.
Some of her major contributions include:
- Playing a significant role in Sri Lankan Peace keeping operation, Operation Jupiter in 1989
- Operation Parakram in 2001-2002 when India and Pakistan were in a stand-off post-terror strikes on Indian Parliament
- With a full load displacement of 28,700 tonnes, the 226.5 metres long and 48.78 metres wide ship was manned by 150 officers and 1,500 sailors.
- Served as a cradle for generations of naval aviators to build and strengthen Indian Naval Forces. This contribution is said to be evident from the smooth induction of INS Vikramaditya into the Indian Navy.
Today, as she lies quiescent probably recalling her days of valour, the world will remember the grand old lady as the one who could be trusted to meet every commitment, and who inspired respect and loyalty among all those who served on board.
Journey from here
The decision on the warship’s future has not been taken yet. Navy Chief Sunil Lanba told NDTV that “If no buyer is found for the ship in four months, it will be broken up and sold for scrap.”
The government of Andhra Pradesh had earlier indicated that it is willing to convert the old ship into a luxury hotel-cum-museum, but hasn’t taken the final decision yet as the project will cost almost Rs. 1,000 crore. She is expected to reach Andhra Pradesh and berth on the coast of Visakhapatnam by mid-2017.
Among other plans of utilizing the carrier, the Navy Chief said that Viraat may even be sunk to convert it into a major tourist attraction for divers.
If no buyers are found, she might even be sent to Alang in Gujarat, where she will be scrapped.
It is said that old warships never die, they are resurrected in another avatar. So maybe it for Viraat.
Reference – Wikipedia, NDTV, Hindustan Times