INS Vikrant (R11)

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"HMS Hercules (R49)" redirects here. For other ships of the same name, see HMS Hercules.
For the ship currently under construction, see INS Vikrant (2013).
INS Vikrant circa 1984 carrying a unique complement of Sea Harriers, Sea Hawks, Allouette & Sea King helicopters and Alize ASW.jpg
INS Vikrant in 1984
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Hercules
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong/Harland and Wolff
Laid down: 12 November 1943
Launched: 22 September 1945
Commissioned: Never commissioned
Renamed: INS Vikrant
Identification: Pennant number: R49
Fate: Laid up in March 1946; Sold to India in 1957
Career (India)
Name: INS Vikrant
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong/Harland and Wolff
Commissioned: 4 March 1961
Decommissioned: 31 January 1997
Identification: Pennant number: R11
Fate: Preserved as a maritime museum in Mumbai from 1997-2014
18°55′53″N 72°50′33″E / 18.9313°N 72.8424°E / 18.9313; 72.8424Coordinates: 18°55′53″N 72°50′33″E / 18.9313°N 72.8424°E / 18.9313; 72.8424
Sold to Indian ship-breakers in January 2014; broken up from September 2014
Status: Broken up at Mumbai, 2014-2015
General characteristics
Type: Majestic-class light carrier
Displacement: 15,700 tons standard, 19,500 tons full load
Length: 192 m (630 ft) waterline, 213.3 metres (700 ft) extreme
Beam: 24.4 m (80 ft) waterline, 39 metres (128 ft) extreme
Draught: 7.3 m (24 ft)
Propulsion: 2 Parsons geared steam turbines 40,000 hp (30 MW), 4 Admiralty three-drum boilers
Speed: 23 knots (43 km/h)
Range: 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 1,075 usual,
1,340 wartime
Armament: 16 × 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns (later reduced to 8)
Armor: none
Aircraft carried: Hawker Sea Hawk
Westland Sea King
HAL Chetak
Sea Harrier
Breguet Alizé Br.1050

INS Vikrant (Sanskrit: विक्रान्‍त, for courageous) was a Majestic-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy.[1] She played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade on East Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

The ship was built under the name Hercules for the British Royal Navy during World War II, but construction was put on hold after the war's end, and she never entered British service. India purchased the incomplete carrier from the United Kingdom in 1957, and construction was completed in 1961. INS Vikrant was commissioned as the first aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. After a distinguished service, she was decommissioned in January 1997.

From 1997 to 2012, she was preserved as a museum ship in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, until it was closed in 2012 due to safety concerns. At the end of January 2014, Vikrant was sold through an online auction to a Darukhana ship-breaker, where is undergoing preparations to be broken up.[2] A public-interest litigation was filed and heard by the Supreme Court of India challenging Vikrant 's sale and scrapping, which resulted in a stay while the sale was being debated. On 14 August 2014, the Supreme Court rejected the PIL and cleared the way for the warship to be scrapped. As of September 2014, Vikrant was beached off Darukhana in Mumbai Port, awaiting the final clearances of the Mumbai Port Trust. Scrapping was scheduled to begin on 6 September and is intended to be completed by mid-2015.[3][4][5]


Vikrant was ordered as Hercules by the Royal Navy. She was laid down on 12 November 1943 by Vickers-Armstrong on the River Tyne.[6] She was launched on 22 September 1945. However, with the end of World War II, her construction was suspended in May 1946 and she was laid up for possible future use.[7]

In January 1957 she was sold to India. She was towed to Belfast to complete her construction and for modifications by Harland and Wolff. A number of improvements to the original design were ordered by the Indian Navy, including an angled deck, steam catapults and a modified island.[8]

Vikrant, as seen from HMS Centaur - March 1962
Hawker Sea Hawk of Vikrant during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war
An Alize anti-submarine aircraft takes off from Vikrant during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war

Vikrant was commissioned into the Indian Navy by then Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Vijayalakshmi Pandit on 4 March 1961 in Belfast. The name Vikrant was taken from Sanskrit vikrānta meaning "stepping beyond", i.e. "courageous" or "bold". Captain Pritam Singh was the first commanding officer of the carrier.[9]

Vikrant's initial air wing consisted of British Hawker Sea Hawk fighter-bombers and a French Alize anti-submarine aircraft. On 18 May 1961, the first jet landed on her deck piloted by Lieutenant (later Admiral) Radhakrishna Hariram Tahiliani. She formally joined the Indian Navy's Fleet in Bombay on 3 November 1961, when she was received at Ballard Pier by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, Pakistan reported that it had sunk Vikrant.[10] However, at the time the ship was in dry dock undergoing modifications.

In June 1970, Vikrant was at the Naval Dockyard for repairs due to a crack in a water drum of one of the boilers powering her steam catapult. Unable to procure a replacement drum from the United Kingdom due to an embargo, Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda ordered the routing of steam from her forward machinery to the steam catapult to bypass the damaged boiler. This repair enabled her to launch both the Sea Hawks as well as the Breguet Alizé, although she lost some cruising power. In March 1971, she was put through trials to test the fix.[11] These modifications turned out to be valuable, enabling Vikrant to enter combat against East Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 despite the cracked boiler.[8][12]

Stationed off the Andaman & Nicobar Islands along with frigates, INS Brahmaputra and INS Beas, Vikrant redeployed towards Chittagong at the outbreak of hostilities.[13] Based on naval intelligence reports that the Pakistan Navy intended to break through the Indian Naval blockade using camouflaged merchant ships, the Sea Hawks struck shipping in the Chittagong and Cox's Bazar harbours, sinking or incapacitating most ships there. On the morning of 4 December 1971, Vikrant '​s eight Sea Hawk aircraft launched an air raid on Cox's Bazar from 60 nautical miles (110 km) offshore. On the evening of 4 December, the air group struck Chittagong Harbour. Later strikes targeted Khulna and Port of Mongla. A Press Trust of India report of 4 December read, "Chittagong harbour ablaze as ships and aircraft of the Eastern Naval Fleet bombed and rocketed. Not a single vessel can be put to sea from Chittagong." Air strikes continued until 10 December 1971 with not a single Sea Hawk lost.

Vikrant during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war

The Pakistan Navy deployed the submarine Ghazi to specifically target and sink Vikrant. However, Ghazi sank off Visakhapatnam harbour, probably due to depth charge attacks by INS Rajput.[14] During the war, the crew of Vikrant earned two Mahavir Chakras and 12 Vir Chakras.[citation needed]

Air Arm[edit]

Vikrant had four squadrons on board :

  • INAS 300 "White Tigers" - flying Sea Hawks.
  • INAS 310 "Cobras" - flying Alizes.
  • INAS 321 "Angels" - flying Alouettes.
  • INAS 330 "Harpoons" - flying Sea Kings.
Squadron insignia

Subsequent service[edit]

Vikrant preserved as a museum ship in Mumbai with historic aircraft visible on the flight deck.
Aircraft elevator of Vikrant

Vikrant was given an extensive refit, including new engines and modernization between 1979 and 3 January 1982. Between December 1982 and February 1983 she was refitted again to enable her to operate BAe Sea Harriers which replaced the Sea Hawk. After the retirement of the Breguet Alizé from carrier service in 1989, she received a 'ski jump' for more efficient use of her Sea Harriers.

Vikrant was India's only carrier for over twenty years, but by the early 1990s she was effectively out of service because of her poor condition. Even following major overhauls she was rarely put to sea. She was formally decommissioned on 31 January 1997.

Museum ship[edit]

Following her decommissioning, Vikrant was marked for preservation as a museum ship in Mumbai, although a lack of funding has prevented progress on the ship's conversion for this role.[15][16] Similarly, speculation that the ship would be made into a training ship in 2006[17] came to nothing. From 2001, Vikrant was made open to the public by the Indian Navy for short periods, but as of April 2010, the Government of Maharashtra was unable to find an industrial partner to operate the museum on a permanent, long-term basis.[15] In 2012, the museum was closed after Vikrant was deemed unsafe.[2]

Vikrant was the only World War II-era British-built aircraft carrier to be preserved as a museum.[18]

Auction and scrapping[edit]

In August 2013, Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha, chief of the Western Naval Command, said the Ministry of Defence would scrap Vikrant as she had become "very difficult to maintain," and as no private bidders had offered to fund the museum's operations.[19] On 3 December 2013 the Indian government decided to auction the ship, due to maintenance difficulties.[20] The Bombay High Court dismissed a public-interest litigation filed by Kiran Paigankar, founder of the "Save Vikrant Committee," stating the vessel's dilapidated condition did not warrant her preservation, nor were the necessary funds or government support available.[21][22]

At the end of January 2014, Vikrant was sold through an online auction to a Darukhana ship-breaker for Rs 60 crore[23][24] Although a public-interest litigation was filed and heard by the Supreme Court of India challenging Vikrant 's sale and scrapping, on 14 August 2014, the Supreme Court rejected the PIL and cleared the way for the warship to be scrapped.[3][4] As of September 2014, Vikrant was beached off Darukhana in Mumbai Port, awaiting the final clearances of the Mumbai Port Trust. Scrapping was scheduled to begin on 6 September and is intended to be completed by mid-2015.[5]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pradeep Barua. The State of War in South Asia. 
  2. ^ a b Nargish Sunavala / Mumbai February 3, 2014 (2006-02-04). "Not museum but scrapyard for INS Vikrant". Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  3. ^ a b "Activists move Supreme Court over Sale of INS Vikrant to Ship Breaker". IANS. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b "SC junks PIL, work on scrapping INS Vikrant to begin next month". Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Klaus Dodds. Pink ice: Britain and the South Atlantic Empire. 
  7. ^ "HMS Hercules". Fleet Air Arm Archive. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  8. ^ a b Richard Jones, Chris Bishop, Chris Chant, Christopher Chant. Aircraft Carriers: The World's Greatest Naval Vessels and Their Aircraft. 
  9. ^ - Indian Museum Ship (Vikrant) Mumbai
  10. ^ "R11 Vikrant". Global Security. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  11. ^ Vice Admiral G.M. Hiranandani. "The Evolution of the Navy's Plan of Operations". Transition to Triumph. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  12. ^ "Great battles: Liberation of Bangladesh 2 of 2". YouTube. 
  13. ^ "Indian Navy at War 1971 East". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  14. ^ Seapower: A Guide for the Twenty-first Century By Geoffrey Till
  15. ^ a b "R 11 Vikrant". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  16. ^ Tembhekar, Chittaranjan (14 April 2010). "No takers for INS Vikrant's museum plan". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  17. ^ P R Sanjai / Mumbai March 14, 2006 (2006-03-14). "INS Vikrant will now be made training school". Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  18. ^ "Warship INS Vikrant heads for Alang death". 2014-01-30. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  19. ^ Naik, Yogesh (10 August 2013). "Vikrant museum to be scrapped as Navy readies new carrier". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  20. ^ "Govt to auction decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant". First Post India. 4 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Nargish Sunavala / Mumbai February 3, 2014 (2006-02-04). "Not museum but scrapyard for INS Vikrant". Times of India. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  22. ^ "Crushing museum dreams, court says INS Vikrant must be scrapped". Mumbai Mirror. 2014-01-24. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  23. ^ "INS Vikrant, India's first aircraft carrier, sold to ship-breaker for Rs 60 crore". The Economic Times (Times of India). 9 April 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  24. ^ "Not museum but scrapyard for warship Vikrant". Times of India. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 


External links[edit]