India has had a very rich and glorious maritime history. This richness comes not only because of the culture and tradition of the country but also because of its conflicted and diverse past. The country has been under the rule of many empires – the last one being the British Empire – before it gained its independence. And since the geographic location of the country such that it forms a huge marine channel, naval vessels have played a major role in glorifying in the military history of the country.
INS Vikrant is one such name that stands out when a list of the Indian naval ships are recounted. Commissioned in the year 1961 as an aircraft carrier by Vijaylakshmi Pandit, the then High Commissioner, the name Vikrant stands for unassailability and bravery in Sanskrit.
Pre & Post Indian Commissioning
Originally named as HMS Hercules, the vessel was built in the Vickers-Armstrong shipyard and launched as a part of Great Britain’s Majestic Class of vessels in the year 1945. However, even before she was brought into active operational duty, World War II came to an end and the ship was withdrawn from being used in active naval duty.
Subsequently, Hercules was sold to the Indian naval force in the year 1957. For four years till its formal launch as a part of the Indian naval force, the war ship was re-modified to suit the Indian requirements in the Irish Harland and Wolff shipyard.
The aircraft fleet of the INS ship consisted of three crafts – the Sea Hawk bomber jets of Great Britain and the French anti-submarine plane Alize. Because of this limited capacitance of fighter planes, the flight carrier was regarded as a light attack air fleet carrier.
The initiation of the flight carrier in the Indian navy was not met with hearty favour all over. The Russian diplomats of that time raised queries about the Indian choice to opt for a British war ship while several senior Indian army men were sceptical of the performance of the vessel.
In the year 1961 according to reputed maritime history sources, the Pakistani navy made claims that they had destroyed the flight carrier. This was a rumour as at that time the vessel was not deployed in the active line of duty but was undergoing its regular maintenance work at the Mumbai (then Bombay) shipyard.
The true test of INS Vikrant however came during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. With seriously debilitating problems to one of her boilers, the INS ship had to function with limited speed that could have hamper that the actual potential of the vessel during the crucial time. However, these problems to the boilers notwithstanding, the aircraft vessel was successful in majorly helping the country to win the 1971 war in a thumping manner.
In the following years, the war vessel underwent major re-hauling with respect to its engines, boilers and other technical equipments. Its fleet of vessels also underwent a change with the Harriers becoming a part of its fleet and the Alize crafts becoming redundant. However towards the start of the late 21st century (in 1997), the aircraft carrier because of its performance incapacity was withdrawn from active service duty.
Life After De-Commissioning
INS Vikrant, even after her decommissioning has been a major source of attraction for enthusiasts from all over the country. Seeing its popularity, the Indian government raised a proposal to convert the ship into a drifting museum. At present, the INS ship is grounded near to the Mumbai landmark, the Gateway of India with her name rechristened to IMS Vikrant – where IMS refers to Indian Museum Ship.
- The Indian navy ship offered a speed of about 25 knots which was later on curtailed to about 12 knots due to the technical problems.
- The ship measured 192 metres lengthwise, 24.4 metres beam wise and 7.3 metres draft wise
- For its act of bravery in a time of extreme need and importance, the ship was awarded with Indian military medals of honour – the Mahavir Chakras (two) and the Vir Chakras (12).
Of all the Indian naval ships which have served the nation, no other war vessel has enjoyed a status that the INS vessel has enjoyed. For its esteemed past and the highlighting picture of history it portrays in the present time, the war vessel needs to be much appreciated.
References: globalsecurity, themumbaiguide, bharat-rakshak, hindustantimes