INS Viraat, the oldest aircraft carrier in the world and the second carrier to be operated by the Indian Navy, arrived at the Cochin Shipyard for its decommissioning refit on Thursday.
Sailing from Mumbai on its own steam for the last time, the carrier will undergo a month-long decommissioning refit for about a month and a half from the first week of August before being towed back to Mumbai for the decommissioning ceremony. The Hindu had reported in February 2015 about the Navy’s decision to retire the 57-year-old behemoth that has served two navies — the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes and the Indian Navy since February 1987.
It proved its mettle in the Falklands War and was mobilised for action during the Operation Parakram. During the 14 short, normal and medium refits it received at the Cochin Shipyard since 1991, the carrier received renewed agility and amazing extension of its operational life.
The Navy was thinking of retiring the carrier before 2010, the delayed induction of the refurbished carrier from Russia, INS Vikramaditya, compelled it to flog the old warhorse for a few more years. The last life extension it got was in 2008, but its integral fleet of Sea Harrier jump jets were getting increasingly unserviceable.
The Navy has bid adieu to the Sea Harriers now and towards the end of this year, Viraat will be taken out of service. Its future however, remains undecided, but there’s a strong proposal to convert it into a museum of maritime history.
The short decommissioning refit will see blanking of all underwater openings on Viraat, basically rendering it defunct. The propeller, rudder and stern tube will all be taken off in the refit.