INS Vi­raat de­com­mis­sioned

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Our Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent ]

Aglo­ri­ous era of INS Vi­raat be­ing the flag­ship of the In­dian Navy came to an end on March 6, 2017. INS Vi­raat, the sec­ond Cen­taur class air­craft car­rier in ser­vice which has spent 30 years in the In­dian Navy and 27 years in the Royal Navy, was de­com­mis­sioned, in a solemn yet grand cer­e­mony at the Naval Dock­yard in Mum­bai. The de­com­mis­sion­ing cer­e­mony was at­tended by over 1,300 per­son­nel who have served on­board INS Vi­raat.

Ad­mi­ral Sir Philip Jones, KCB, ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of Royal Navy; Vice Ad­mi­ral Vinod Pas­richa, PVSM, AVSM, NM the com­mis­sion­ing Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of INS Vi­raat, were the guests of hon­our, while Ad­mi­ral Su­nil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC, Chief of the Naval Staff, was the chief guest for the cer­e­mony.

To com­mem­o­rate “30 years of Glo­ri­ous Ser­vice to the Na­tion” by INS Vi­raat, a spe­cial postal cover was re­leased by the chief guest on the oc­ca­sion.

INS Vi­raat holds the world record as men­tioned in the Guin­ness Book of Records for be­ing the long­est serv­ing war­ship of the world. The ship which was the cen­tre­piece of the Navy, housed the fight­ers Sea Har­ri­ers of INAS 300, pop­u­larly called ‘White Tigers’, anti-sub­ma­rine air­craft Sea King Mk 42B — also known as ‘Har­poons’, Sea King Mk 42C and the SAR he­li­copter Chetak as an in­te­gral flight. The in­dige­nous ad­vance light helicopters ‘Dhruv’ and the Rus­sian twin ro­tor Kamov-31 have also op­er­ated from the ship. The Sea Har­rier fleet was de­com­mis­sioned at Goa on May 11, 2016.

Un­der the In­dian flag, the ship has clocked more than 22,622 fly­ing hours by var­i­ous air­craft in the past three decades and has spent nearly 2,252 days at sea sail­ing across 5,88,287 nau­ti­cal miles (10,94,215 km). This im­plies that Vi­raat has spent seven years at sea, cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the globe 27 times. Since her in­cep­tion, she has had a to­tal of 80,715 hours of boil­ers run­ning.

Vi­raat played a ma­jor role in Op­er­a­tion Jupiter in 1989 dur­ing the Sri Lankan peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tion, af­ter which she was af­fil­i­ated with the Garhwal Ri­fles and Scouts of the In­dian Army in 1990. She also saw ac­tion dur­ing Op Parakram in 2001-02, post the ter­ror­ist at­tack on Par­lia­ment. The ship was in­stru­men­tal in hon­ing the art of fly­ing oper­a­tions from a car­rier deck in the Navy, which also re­sulted in seam­less in­duc­tion of INS Vikra­ma­ditya and its in­te­gra­tion with the fleet.

The ship has par­tic­i­pated in var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional joint ex­er­cises like Ex­er­cise Mal­abar (USA), ex­er­cise Varuna (French), NaseemAl-Ba­har (Oman Navy). She has also been an in­te­gral el­e­ment of all an­nual the­atre level ex­er­cises (TROPEX). The last op­er­a­tional de­ploy­ment of Vi­raat was for the In­ter­na­tional Fleet Re­view (IFR 2016) off Visakha­p­at­nam in Fe­bru­ary 2016.

‘Mother’, as she was fondly re­ferred to in the Navy had been com­manded by 22 Cap­tains since 1987. She was the flag­ship of the Navy since her in­cep­tion. Around 40 Flag Of­fi­cers in­clud­ing five Chiefs of Naval Staff were raised and groomed in her lap. Her legacy un­der the Royal flag was no less. As HMS Her­mes, she was com­manded by 13 Cap­tains of the Royal Navy. Her role in Op­er­a­tion Mercy in 1974 and the Falk­lands War in 1982 are now text­book ref­er­ences for fu­ture navies.

At sun­set on March 6, 2017, as the Naval En­sign and Com­mis­sion­ing Pen­nant was low­ered for the last time on­board INS Vi­raat, a glo­ri­ous era in the his­tory of the In­dian Navy came to a nos­tal­gic end. The legacy of Vi­raat will live on for­ever and will be car­ried for­ward by INS Vikra­ma­ditya, which is al­ready in­te­grated with the fleet, and INS Vikrant which will be in­ducted in the next few years.

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