INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, was commissioned into the country’s navy on Friday, September 2. Right from commissioning, INS Vikrant has turned into the poster boy of the Indian Navy. However, nearly 30 years ago, the same place was held by INS Viraat – the grand old man of the Indian Navy.
INS Viraat was initially part of the Royal British Navy. It became operational in 1959 and was called HMS Hermes. The Royal British Navy decommissioned the HMS Hermes in 1984 and sold it to the Indian Navy in 1987. The Indian Navy recommissioned the aircraft carrier on May 12, 1987 and renamed it INS Viraat.
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INS Viraat served the Indian Navy for 30 years before it was finally decommissioned on March 6, 2017. Even after five years since its decommissioning, the ship holds the record for being the longest-serving aircraft in the world.
On July 23, 2016, INS Viraat sailed for one last time from Mumbai to Kochi. During its last ride, it was reported that INS Viraat had spent 2,250 days at sea and covered a total of 10,94,215 kilometers.
After decommissioning, there were debates on whether INS Viraat should be preserved for posterity or be dismantled and sold as crap. Those geared towards preserving the carrier wanted INS Viraat to be turned into a museum and restaurant. Eventually, however, the plans fell through and the aircraft carrier was sold for dismantling.
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In April 2021, the Indian Supreme Court ruled INS Viraat has already become the private property of Shree Ram Group and almost 40% of the ship has already been dismantled. With new names ready to set the sea on fire, INS Viraat will always be fondly remembered as a once great member of the Indian Navy’s fleet.