India to Retire 57-Year Old Aircraft Carrier Viraat – The Oldest Aircraft Carrier In The World

Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat.  <a href=>Photo Credit</a>
Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat. Photo Credit

The INS Viraat is India’s only operational aircraft carrier. It is to retire later this year. What isn’t decided, though, is what will happen to the ship afterwards.

Navy chief Sunil Lanba, discussed a proposal that would convert the ship into a museum. Currently docked at Cochin Shipyard in preparation for a decommissioning refit, the Viraat is a piece of history:

  • Oldest aircraft carrier – At 57 years-old, the Viraat is the oldest aircraft carrier in the world. It has served two different navies, the British as the HMS Hermes and the Indian Navy since February 1987.
    Commissioned in 1959, it was the flagship of the Royal Navy during the Falklands war in 1982 and decommissioned three years later. It was given extensive refits and then inducted into the Indian Navy in 1987. It has been India’s sole aircraft carrier for more than a decade.
  • The ‘Mother’ – The 13 story-tall ship known as ‘Mother,’ was used in the Operation Parakram – the standoff between India and Pakistan that followed the attack on Parliament in 2001.
  • The Giant – During its 29-year career, the Viraat has received 14 refits. It docked in Cochin Shipyards on July 28. This time, they are removing any valuable equipment before sending it back to Mumbai for decommissioning.
  • End of the Sea Harrier – The Viraat was planned to be retired before 2010. Delays in the introduction of the INS Vikramaditya made the navy hold on the Viraat. With the retirement of the Viraat, the Sea Harrier’s operational life comes to an end as well. They will still be used in training; Sea King helicopters will be used in service.
  • Worries about defense – The loss of the Viraat leaves India without a carrier until the Vikramaditya is complete in eight months. With China trying to expand its influence, it’s not a good time to not be in full force.
  • The future – There is no clear future for the Viraat. The government wants to turn it into a hotel or resort. Other groups are promoting adventure tourism. No decision has been made, Hindustan Times reported.

The hope is that the Viraat will not end up as the Vikrant did. That ship was sold for scrap metal. Bajaj Auto sells the V15 range of motorcycles which it claims uses metal from the Vikrant in the fuel tank.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE