INS Viraat served in the Indian Navy for 30 long years. In March 2017, the glorious era of INS Viraat culminated after being decommissioned at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai.
INS Viraat holds the world record as mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records for being the longest-serving warship of the world.
INS Viraat has begun its brief voyage from Mumbai to Gujarat’s Alang for one last time. Once INS Viraat reaches the shore of Gujarat, it will be broken and sold as scrap. As the Indian Navy bids adieu to the Aircraft Carrier, which has the distinguished record of providing the longest service in the world, we look at the indelible contributions of INS Viraat.
INS Viraat was commissioned into the British Royal Navy in November 1959 as HMS (Her Majesty’s Ship) Hermes. The Centaur-Class aircraft carrier 27 years in the Royal Navy.
INS Viraat served in the Indian Navy for 30 long years. In March 2017, the glorious era of INS Viraat culminated after being decommissioned at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai. The grand ceremony witnessed the presence of more than 1300 personnel who have served on board INS Viraat.
The then Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba 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 for the Grand Old Lady of the Indian Navy.
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 centerpiece 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 42 C and the SAR helicopter Chetak as an integral flight. The indigenous Advanced 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 11 May 2016, the Ministry of Defence stated.
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, the Ministry of Defence stated.
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 2001-2002, 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 the seamless induction of INS Vikramaditya and its integration with the fleet, the Ministry of Defence stated.
The ship has participated in various international joint exercises like Exercise Malabar (USA), exercise Varuna (French), Naseem-Al-Bahar (Oman Navy). She has also been an integral element of all annual theater-level exercises (TROPEX). The last operational deployment of Viraat was for the International Fleet Review (IFR 2016) off Vishakhapatnam in February 2016.
INS Viraat’s motto was the Sanskrit phrase ‘Jalamev Yashya, Balamev Tasya’ (Who controls the sea is powerful). The ship had a maximum speed of 28 knots. It underwent three major refits during its three-decade-long service with the Indian Navy.
‘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.
INS Viraat’s legacy as HMS Hermes under the British Royal flag was no less glorious. 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.
The legacy of INS Viraat will forever be remembered. After the decommissioning INS Viraat, the Indian Navy has been operating with INS Vikramaditya, the lone carrier which is already integrated with the fleet. India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-I) INS Vikrant is under construction and will be inducted sooner rather than later.