12 May in Indian History: INS Viraat commissioned into the Indian Navy

INS Viraat, a Centaur-class aircraft carrier, was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 12 May 1987.

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  • The INS Viraat was originally a British ship known as HMS Hermes, which was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1959. The Indian government purchased it in 1986 and rechristened it Viraat which means ‘giant’ in Sanskrit.
  • INS Viraat had served the Indian military for nearly 30 years when it was decommissioned on 6th March 2017. At that time, she was the oldest aircraft carrier in the world.
  • After purchasing the vessel, the Indian Navy refitted her extensively at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, England.
  • As HMS Hermes, she had taken part in the Falklands War in 1982 before being decommissioned from the Royal Navy in 1985.
  • The Viraat is a Centaur-class aircraft carrier 743 feet long and 160 feet wide. It had a speed of 28 knots or 52 kmph. She could host a crew of 2100 (1207 ship’s crew and 143 air crew).
  • Up to 26 aircrafts were carried by INS Viraat, including HAL Chetak and HAL Dhruv.
  • INS Viraat, which had been captained by 22 captains since 1987, was the flagship of the Indian Navy till it was decommissioned.
  • Her motto is “Jalamev Yasya Balmev Tasya” which translates to ‘one who controls the sea is all powerful’.
  • She had participated in Operation Jupiter as part of the Indian Peacekeeping Force in Sri Lanka. She also took part in various international joint military exercises (Exercise Malabar with the USA, Exercise Varuna with France and so on).
  • The navy started deliberating on the future of the vessel in 2013 considering her age and cost of maintenance.
  • In 2015, the navy announced its intention to decommission INS Viraat. Initially, there were plans of converting the ship into a museum ship by the government of Andhra Pradesh. However, these plans failed to see the light of day.
  • The vessel’s decommissioning ceremony in Mumbai was attended by many officers from the UK as well.
  • Currently, the navy’s chief aircraft carrier is the INS Vikramaditya.

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