Farewell INS Viraat, the pride of Indian Navy
As INS Viraat gets ready to be dismantled at the ship breaking yard in Alang and then sold as scrap, let’s have a look at the glorious history and features of this magnificent beast on the water…
- The aircraft carrier, in its earlier avatar, had won the Falklands War against Argentina in 1982 for the Royal British Navy.
- It weighs about 27,800 tonnes and served in the British Navy as HMS Hermes from November 1959 to April 1984 and after refurbishment, was commissioned into the Indian Navy.
- In late 80s, the Indian Navy purchased it at a cost of $65 million and it was re-commissioned on May 12, 1987.
- INS Viraat holds the record for being the world’s longest serving warship.
- It was the second centaur-class aircraft carrier which was in service with the Indian Navy for 29 years before being decommissioned in March 2017.
- There were proposals in the past to preserve it as a maritime museum. In July 2019, the central government said in Parliament that the decision to scrap INS Viraat was taken in due consultation with the Indian Navy.
- The warship was purchased by Shree Ram Group for a sum of ₹38.54 crore at an auction in July this year.
- It is the second aircraft carrier to be broken down in India. In 2014, INS Vikrant was dismantled in Mumbai.
- The pride of the Indian Navy housed the Sea Harrier jump jets, a shot take off and vertical landing fighter aircraft, as well as helicopters like the anti-submarine Sea King MK42B, Sea King MK42C, SAR (search and rescue) Chetak, indigenously-built Advanced Light Helicopters ‘Dhruv’ and Russian twin rotor Kamov-31 among others.
- The 12-degree ramp on the bows of Viraat was her most striking visual feature which helped improve the safety factor and radius of operation/payload carrying capacity of the Sea Harriers.
- At the height of operations, an average food complement prepared on board daily included 350 kg rice, 7,000 parathas, 200 kg mutton, 80 kg dal, 300 kg of vegetables and other items, all in her kitchen.
- It was like a mini-floating township with other logistics infrastructure comprising libraries, gymnasiums, on-board ATM and TV and video studios.
- The ship housed a full-fledged 16-bed hospital with two operation theatres, blood transfusion facility, X-ray machines, ECG, full-fledged pathology lab, and dental centre to tackle medical emergencies with attendant medical staff, a laundry which washed over 800 pairs of uniforms daily, a tailor and a barber shop.
- In 1975, Prince Charles of Britain, then a newly qualified helicopter pilot, had joined the 845 Naval Air Squadron on flying duties from the then HMS Hermes in the Caribbean and off Eastern Canada. Even after she joined the Indian Navy, there was a room named after Prince Charles where he resided on the warship, and many photographs showing her glorious history were recently part of an exhibition named “Heritage Route”.
- Unlike all other Indian Navy ships, Viraat housed a chapel and a graveyard on board, which was reminiscent of her British military era, and the new owners (India) retained these as they honoured a chapter of her history.
- Armed with a motto of ‘Jalamev Yasya, Balamev Tasya’ (Sanskrit for one who controls the sea is all powerful), the ship played major roles for the country in Operation Jupiter, Operation Parakram and Operation Vijay, and other defence-related duties.
- Alang in Gujarat is the world’s biggest ship breaking yard with hundreds of ships getting scrapped each year.