INS Viraat

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INS Viraat front view.jpg
INS Viraat (R22) in 2002
Name: INS Viraat
Acquired: May 1987
Recommissioned: 12 May 1987[1]
Decommissioned: November 2016 (planned) [2][3]
Out of service: 23 July 2016
Refit: April 1986, July 1999, Mid-2003-November 2004, August 2008-November 2009, November 2012-July 2013
Homeport: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Identification: Pennant number: R22
Motto: Jalameva Yasya, Balameva Tasya (Sanskrit: "He who rules over the seas is all powerful")
Nickname(s): Grand Old Lady[4]
Status: Retired from active service
Crest of INS Viraat
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Hermes
Ordered: 1943
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong
Laid down: 21 June 1944
Launched: 16 February 1953
Commissioned: 25 November 1959
Decommissioned: 1984
Struck: 1985
Homeport: HMNB Portsmouth
Identification: pennant number: R12
Fate: Sold to India in 1986
General characteristics
Class and type: Centaur-class aircraft carrier
  • 23,900 tons standard
  • 28,700 tons full load
Length: 226.5 m (743 ft)
Beam: 48.78 m (160.0 ft)
Draught: 8.8 m (29 ft)
Propulsion: 2 × Parsons geared steam turbines; 4 boilers with 400 psi, 76,000 shp (57,000 kW)
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h)
Range: 6,500 mi (10,500 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
  • Maximum 2,100;
  • 1,207 ship's crew,
  • 143 air crew
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • 1 × BEL/Signaal RAWL 02 air radar
  • 1 × RAWS 08 air/surface radar
  • 2 × BEL Rashmi navigation radars
  • 1 × EL/M-2221 STGR fire control radar
  • 1 × Plessey Type 904 radar
  • 1 × FT 13-S/M Tacan system
  • Sonar:
  • 1 × Graseby Type 184M hull-mounted sonar
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
  • 1 × BEL Ajanta ESM
  • Decoy:
  • 2 × Knebworth Corvus chaff launchers
Aircraft carried:

INS Viraat (Sanskrit: Virāṭa meaning Giant) is a Centaur-class aircraft carrier in service with the Indian Navy. INS Viraat was the flagship of the Indian Navy before INS Vikramaditya was commissioned in 2013. The last British-built ship serving with the Indian Navy, she was the oldest aircraft carrier in service in the world. The ship was completed and commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy's HMS Hermes, and decommissioned in 1984. It was sold to India in 1987. INS Viraat was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 12 May 1987,[1] and served for 27 years.

In February 2015, the navy stated that Viraat would be decommissioned the following year.[5] On 23 July 2016, Viraat sailed for the last time under her own power from Mumbai to Kochi, where she was dry-docked and prepared for decommissioning.[6] She was towed back to Mumbai on 23 October for her formal decommissioning ceremony, scheduled for late 2016 or early 2017.[7] Her ultimate fate is currently uncertain.[8]


INS Viraat is fitted with a 14° ski jump to operate the Sea Harrier, a reinforced flight deck, and 1.2 inches (3 cm) of armour over the magazines and machinery spaces. The magazine capacity includes at least 80 lightweight torpedoes. The vessel retains commando transport capability for up to 750 troops and carries four LCVP landing craft in the aft section.[9] In a wartime scenario, the ship can embark up to 26 combat aircraft and the ship is suited for supporting amphibious operations and conducting ASW operations.


The aircraft on board INS Viraat were operated by four squadrons of the Naval air arm of the Indian Navy:

Air squadrons
Squadron Name Insignia Aircraft
INAS 300 White Tigers INAS 300 insignia.jpg BAE Sea Harrier
INAS 552 The Braves INAS 552 insignia.jpg BAE Sea Harrier
INAS 321 Angels INAS 321 insignia.jpg Alouette III
HAL Chetak
INAS 330 Harpoons INAS 330 insignia.jpg Westland Sea King

The fleet also consisted of Kamov Ka-31 Helix-B airborne early warning aircraft and Kamov Ka-28 Helix-A helicopters.

All Sea Harrier operations from the deck of INS Viraat ceased on 6 May 2016 following the retirement of Harrier fleet.

Operational history[edit]

Royal Navy[edit]

Main article: HMS Hermes (R12)

INS Viraat was originally commissioned by the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on 18 November 1959, 15 years after she was laid down in June 1944. She served as the flagship of the Royal Navy's task force during the Falkland Islands campaign in 1982 and was decommissioned from active duty in 1985. In April 1986, Hermes was towed from Portsmouth Dockyard to Devonport Dockyard to be refitted, re-activated and sold to India.[10]

Indian Navy[edit]

After evaluating vessels from several countries including the planned Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi-class carriers, the Indian Navy purchased the vessel in April 1986 and gave her an extensive refit at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, England, to allow for continued operability into the next decade.[11][12] New fire control equipment, navigation radars, improved NBC protection, and deck landing aids were installed in this refit. Boilers were converted to operate on distillate fuel.[13]

In September 1993, the engine room of the ship was flooded, putting the vessel out of service for several months. The vessel was back in service in 1995 and was fitted with a new search radar. Between July 1999 and April 2001, the ship completed another life-extension refit expected to extend her serviceability until 2010. This refit upgraded propulsion systems, added a package of sensors to sound emergency alerts and introduced modern communication systems. In addition, a long-range surveillance radar, weapon systems, and a new hangar with fire curtains were installed. The lift system was revamped to reduce reaction time in the event of an attack and a new flood alarm system was installed.[14] The vessel also took part in the International Fleet Review in Mumbai in February 2001. The vessel was towed back to dry dock for another refit in mid-2003 and returned to service in November 2004, during which the vessel was fitted with the Barak SAM.[15]

Indian Navy Sea Harriers and Indian Air Force SEPECAT Jaguars with a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet flying over INS Viraat

The ship underwent a fourth refit in Indian service from January to August 2009 at Cochin Shipyard, Kochi.[16] The refit was expected to ensure her continued service in the Indian Navy until 2015 and the ship went through exercises in the Arabian Sea for a month and a half before being deployed to the Gulf of Aden.[17] Navy officers later reported that the carrier might be kept in service until 2020, as two Indigenous Aircraft Carriers (IACs) seemed likely to be fully operational by then.[18][19] On 12 July 2011, the ship arrived at Cochin shipyard for a short refit scheduled to be completed in two months and it was repainted. Indian Navy indicated that the ship could remain in service until 2020, provided that there are still Sea Harriers available for ship-borne operations.[20]

On 2 November 2012, the ship arrived in Kochi for the first part of a major two-phase refit. In the first phase, the hull was cleaned, probed for corrosion, worn hull plates were reinforced and received a fresh coat of corrosion-resistant paint.[21] The carrier sailed to Mumbai for further upgrades to her machinery before rejoining the fleet in the summer of 2013. The refit would enable her to serve through 2016 and was the final major refit before her decommissioning.[22] In August–September 2015, the ship underwent a short refit to reinforce her hull and inspection before her participation in the International Fleet Review in February 2016.[23]


INS Viraat (top) escorting the Indian Navy's newly acquired aircraft carrier Vikramaditya during her delivery voyage

In 2004, India bought the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov from Russia for US$ 2.35 billion including its complement of aircraft.[24] It entered service in 2013 as INS Vikramaditya. INS Viraat was expected to be replaced by 2015–16 by a new indigenous Vikrant-class aircraft carrier. After upgrades, her service life was extended until 2020.[18][25] By 2013, Viraat 's age and cost of maintenance prompted the navy to begin the process to obtain Defence Ministry clearance for her decommissioning.[26] Her age and her cost of maintenance prompted the navy to consider decommissioning her by 2017, and in December 2014, a review board was established to determine the ship's continued service life.[27]

In February 2015, the navy announced plans to decommission the ship in 2016 and began the process to obtain Defence Ministry clearance for the carrier's decommissioning.[5] In July 2015, it was announced that the ship would be transferred to the Government of Andhra Pradesh for conversion into a museum ship at a cost of 20 crore (US$3 million) with Chandrababu Naidu, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh confirming the same on 8 February 2016.[2][28][29][30] By April 2016, however, the plans had apparently fallen through.[2][31]

On 23 July 2016, Viraat sailed from Mumbai to Kochi for the last time under her own steam; by then, she had spent a total of 2,250 days at sea and had steamed a total of 1,094,215 kilometers.[7] At Kochi, she underwent a month-long refit in preparation for decommissioning; during the refit, her boilers, engines, propellers and rudders were removed.[6][32] The refit was completed on 4 September, and the carrier was towed back to Mumbai on 23 October for her formal decommissioning ceremony, scheduled for the end of 2016 or in early 2017; her weapons systems and operational equipment will be removed by mid-2017. Her subsequent fate remains uncertain.[8][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Surface Ships". Indian Navy. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Sarma, C.H.R.S. (8 February 2016). "'INS Viraat' to be handed over to Andhra Pradesh after decommissioning". The Hindu. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Dutta, Sujan (8 April 2016). "Left-forbidden talks with US". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  4. ^ "INS Viraat sails to Kochi for repairs, dry-docking". The Economic Times. 24 July 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Anandan, S (12 February 2015). "INS Viraat to be decommissioned in 2016". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "INS Viraat's last journey". The Hindu. 23 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c "INS Viraat sails on final journey from Kochi to Mumbai for decommissioning". The New Indian Express. 23 October 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "INS Viraat's final farewell set in Mumbai". The Hindu. 25 September 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016. 
  9. ^ Lee, Jae-Hyung (2003). China and the Asia-pacific Region: Geostrategic Relations and a Naval Dimension. iUniverse. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-595-26043-0. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Anthony, Ian (1990). The Naval Arms Trade. SIPRI. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-19-829137-4. 
  12. ^ Ramchandani, Indu (2000). Students' Britannica India, Volumes 1-5. Popular Prakashan. ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5. 
  13. ^ Bishop, Chris; Chant, Christopher (2004). Aircraft Carriers. MBI Publishing Company LLC. ISBN 978-0-7603-2005-1. 
  14. ^ Horizon House (2004). International Electronic Countermeasures Handbook. Artech House. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-58053-898-5. 
  15. ^ Abadi, Jacob (2003). Israel's Quest for Recognition and Acceptance in Asia: Garrison State Diplomacy. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-0-203-50414-7. 
  16. ^ "INS Viraat out of dry dock, to sail to Gulf of Aden soon". DNA. 26 February 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  17. ^ IANS (17 August 2009). "INS Viraat refit complete, gears up for golden jubilee". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Naval Air: Where There Were None, Now There Is One". 20 August 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  19. ^ Sharma, Ritu (17 August 2009). "INS Viraat refit complete, gears up for golden jubilee". Indo-Asian News Service. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  20. ^ "Navy to operate Viraat aircraft carrier for another decade". The Economic Times. 19 January 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  21. ^ "INS Viraat arrives in Kochi for periodic refit". The Hindu. 3 November 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  22. ^ "Major repairs for the INS Viraat, its replacement delayed again by Russia". NDTV. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  23. ^ "INS Viraat to have short refit". The Hindu. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  24. ^ Conley, erome M. (2001). Indo-Russian Military and Nuclear Cooperation: Lessons and Options for U.S Policy in South Asia. Lexington Books. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7391-0217-6. 
  25. ^ "Navy to operate Viraat aircraft carrier for another decade". The Economic Times. 19 January 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  26. ^ "Navy plans nuke-powered carrier". The Telegraph (Calcutta). 12 March 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  27. ^ "Navy technical board to assess service life of INS Viraat". ABP. 4 December 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  28. ^ "Indian carrier Viraat 'de-operationalised'". Janes. 11 February 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  29. ^ "Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat may be modified into a luxury hotel". Naval Technology. 11 February 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  30. ^ "INS Viraat: A warship that will soon be converted into a hotel!". India Today. 11 February 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  31. ^ "INS Viraat is up for grabs, but so far no takers". DNA. 2 May 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  32. ^ "INS Viraat's last journey commences". Times of India. 23 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 

External links[edit]