She served two navies for a good 56 years and now INS Viraat sails off to her final destination at Mumbai. There the iconic aircraft carrier will await her fate – she could be scrapped or could be turned into a museum (more on that later).
For the time being, the powerful carrier, which finished her last operational tour of duty with the conclusion of the International Fleet Review (IFR-2016), is heading to Mumbai from Kochi towed by a Lilliputian tug-vessel.
At Kochi, the ship received a warm adieu from the sailors who once stood proudly on her deck.
It was here, at the Cochin Shipyard Limited, where she underwent the necessary refits whenever she sailed in for regular maintenance.
INS Viraat will wait for her fate at Mumbai. The Andhra Pradesh government reportedly wants the carrier anchored at Vishakhapatnam as a hotel or a museum.
If talks for the same between the state government and the Ministry of Defence succeed, INS Viraat will be back along the Bay of Bengal coast.
In September this year, Vice-Admiral H.C.S. Bisht, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Naval Command, had confirmed that the AP government is keen on having the ship for tourism purposes and that some locations had been identified.
INS Viraat holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest serving warship.
Originally built by the British as a Centaur-class vessel HMS Hermes, she was commissioned into the Royal Navy on November 25, 1959.
She was sold to India and commissioned into the Indian Navy on May 12, 1987 becoming the second aircraft carrier of the force.
In her operational life, she served in the Falklands War in 1982, Operation Jupiter in 1989 (Indian Peace Keeping operations in Sri Lanka) and Operation Vijay in the year 1999 (Kargil War).
Besides an assortment of other aircraft, the entire Indian Navy vertical take-off capable Sea Harrier fleet operated from the deck of the INS Viraat.
The INS Viraat has sailed more than 10, 94,215 km or 5,88,288 nautical miles during her service with the Indian Navy.