INS Viraat decommissioned: All you need to know about world's longest serving aircraft carrier

In May this year, the INS Viraat aircraft carrier would have completed 30 years in service with the Indian Navy. Often known as the Grand Old Lady, the surface ship sailed under her own power for the last time from Mumbai to Kochi in July 2016 and was decommissioned in Mumbai on Monday. The decommissioning ceremony saw the lowering and wrap-up of the naval flag installed on the warship at sunset. Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar was scheduled to attend it.

Here's all you need to know about the aircraft career.

Birth: The grand Elephant to HMS Hermes 10

According to, the ship was laid down by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow in Furness, a town and borough in Cumbria, North West England, as HMS Elephant on 21 June 1944. It was one of the “Centaur” class light fleet carriers. The building of the ship, however, was suspended temporarily, and not launched until 16 February 1953. After few suspensions and modifications, the ship was finally completed on 18 November 1959 and commissioned to the British Royal Navy On the 25 November 1959 at Portsmouth as HMS Hermes 10.

INS Viraat. Reuters

INS Viraat. Reuters

According to, Hermes cost £18 million, with another £1 million for electronic equipment and £10 million for aircraft in 1959.

In 1971, it was sent for conversion into a helicopter carrier at a cost £15 million, and was again fitted with anti-submarine features between 1975 and 1976, and added a ski-jump in the 1980s. The ship served till 1984 taking part in important events including the 1982 Falklands War. It was decommissioned in 1984 and later sold to India.

"In April 1986 Hermes was towed from Portsmouth Dockyard to Devonport Dockyard to be refitted, re-activated and sold to India, recommissioning and sailing as INS Viraat in 1987," the site wrote.

INS Viraat: A new journey

Under her new name and flag, INS Viraat was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 12 May, 1987. She was formally commissioned on 15 February, 1989, according to

According to Hindustan Times report, the fighter aircraft complement in INS Viraat is the British-origin Sea Harrier, about 30 of which were inducted into the Indian Navy in 1983. By 2011, the navy has lost about 20 of these aircraft in crashes over the years and about 10 were left in service now. INS Viraat was scheduled to be decommissioned originally in 2012, but was extended due to a delay in the delivery of INS Vikramaditya (earlier known as Admiral Gorshkov), which was inducted into the Indian Navy in 2014.

Capabilities and feats

INS Viraat, says a Times of India report, holds the Guinness Record for being the oldest serving warship. INS Viraat is a good fit for two types of missions — supporting both maritime and land-based operations and conducting anti-submarine warfare.

According to an NDTV report , the ship has sailed nearly 11 lakh kms, enough to cover the globe 27 times, and has played a major role in Operation Jupiter, the Sri Lankan peacekeeping operation in 1989, and was also used during the Operation Parakram after the 2001 parliament attack.

INS Viraat. Reuters

INS Viraat. Reuters

"The ship is 227 metres long, nine metres broad, and weighs 228,000 tonnes," Captain Puneet Chadha, INS Viraat's current and last commanding officer told "The ship had Barak anti-missile defence system for its self-defence," he added.

The Viraat has seen 22 captains serve since 1987, including officers who went on to be appointed flag officers (40) and chiefs of naval staff (5), the report said.

Future of INS Viraat

Though the future of the ship is not known yet, several proposals have been made including sinking the aircraft carrier and converting it into a major tourist attraction for divers, NDTV said.

According to The Hindu, the Andhra Pradesh government has proposed to convert INS Viraat into "an offshore luxury hotel and build a Marina along it, with an entertainment zone around. The project is estimated to cost almost Rs 1,000 crore".

Some reports stated that the Centre is looking for a buyer, failing which the ship may be moved for scrapping. According to a report in, the decommissioning ceremony of the warship shall be commemorated by releasing a book on her history, and a Special Cover by Army Postal Service.

Updated Date: Mar 06, 2017 19:23 PM

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