INS Viraat sails on her own steam for one last time
The aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, set sail for Kochi on July 23 for essential repairs and dry docking (ERDD) at the Cochin Shipyard. This is the last sailing under her own propulsion as INS Viraat is slated for decommissioning later this year. Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command, and other senior officers of the command, visited the ship and interacted with the crew prior to her departure.
The carrier was escorted out of harbour by fast interceptor craft and helicopters from the Western Naval Command. It was indeed an emotional moment for the Navy, as INS Viraat leaves Naval Dockyard Mumbai, for ‘one last time’ under own power. The ship will be towed back to Mumbai on completion of ERDD, for the decommissioning ceremony later this year.
INS Viraat was commissioned into the Indian Navy on May 12, 1987. The ship operated Sea Harrier (White Tigers, fighter air crafts), Sea King 42B (Harpoons, anti-submarine helicopters) and Sea King 42C (commando carrier helicopters) and Chetak (Angles - SAR helicopter) as her main air elements. The Sea Harrier fleet was also recently decommissioned at Goa in May 16.
Under the Indian flag, various aircraft have flown more than 22,034 hours from the decks of INS Viraat. She has spent nearly 2,250 days at sea sailing 5,88,288 nm (10, 94,215 km). This implies that Viraat has been at sea for over six years covering the entire globe about 27 times. She played a major role in the Operation Jupiter in 1989 (Indian Peace Keeping operations in Sri Lanka) and Operation Vijay in the year 1999 (Kargil war). The ship has also participated in various international joint exercises like Malabar (with US Navy), Varuna (with French Navy), Naseem-Al-Bahar (with Oman Navy) and has been an integral element of all major naval exercises. The last operational deployment of the ship was for participation in the International Fleet Review (IFR-2016) at Visakhapatnam. Having served the country and the Navy for nearly three decades, INS Viraat handed over the mantle of carrier operations to INS Vikramaditya which was commissioned in the year 2013.
The second aircraft carrier of the country has spent 29 years under the Indian flag and 27 years with the Royal Navy (United Kingdom). The ship holds the Guinness record for being the oldest serving warship. INS Viraat is a Centaur class aircraft carrier and served in the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes, which was the flag ship of Royal Navy during the Falklands campaign of 1982. She is commonly referred to as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ among the naval community.