Three and a half years after it was decommissioned, the much-celebrated Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier and the longest serving warship of the world “INS Viraat” on Saturday embarked on its swan song journey to Alang Port in Gujarat, the country’s biggest graveyard for all such condemned ships.
Accompanied by two other towing vessels, “INS Viraat” set sail for her final voyage. She will reach Alang Port in little over three days after which the condemned ship will come under the hammer, thus marking the end of a glorious era of a legendary ship. “INS Viraat was bought by Shri Ram Green Ship Recycling Industries Ltd., Gujarat, for Rs.38.50 crore in an auction conducted by MSTC Ltd.
INS Viraat had been decommissioned on March 6, 2017 by the Indian Navy in a sombre yet grand ceremony at Mumbai's Naval Dockyard in the presence of more than 1300 personnel who have served on board the iconic warship.
At the time of its de-commissioning, a Special Postal Cover was released by the Chief Guest Admiral Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC, Chief of the Naval Staff, to commemorate “30 years of Glorious Service to The Nation” by INS Viraat
The aircraft carrier was commissioned into the Indian Navy on May 12. 1987. The ship held the Guinness Books of record for being the longest serving warship of the world. The ship which was the centerpiece of the Navy, housed the fighters Sea Harriers of INAS 300 popularly called “White Tigers”, Anti Submarine aircraft Sea king Mk 42B, Sea King Mk 42 C known as “Harpoons” and the SAR helicopter Chetak as an integral flight. The ingenious Air Light Helicopter Dhruv' and the Russian twin rotor Kamov-31 also operated onboard the ship. The Sea Harriers 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 2252 days at sea sailing and 5,88,287 NM (10,94,215 KM).
In essence, INS Viraat spent seven years at sea, covering the entire globe 27 times. Since her inception she had a total of 80,715 hours of boiler running. She played a major role in the Operation Jupiter in 1989 in Sri Lankan Peace Keeping operation, after which she was affiliated with Garhwal Rifles and Scouts of the Indian Army in 1990.
Her major participation was seen during Op Parakram in 2001-2002 where India and Pakistan were engaged in a standoff post terrorist attack on the 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 participated in various international joint exercises like Exercise Malabar (USA), exercise Varuna (French), Naseem-Al-Bahar (Oman Navy). She was also an integral element of all the annual theater level exercise (TROPEX). The last operational deployment of Viraat was for participation in International Fleet Review (IFR 2016) off Vishakhapatnam in February 2016.
‘Mother’, as she is referred to in the Western Navy, has been commanded by 22 Captains since 1987. She has been the FlagShip of the Navy since her inception. Around 40 Flag officers including fiveChiefs 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 Falklands in 1982 are now text book references for victory, for future navies.