Viraat has played key roles in several military operations.Viraat has played key roles in several military operations. (File image: Reuters)

INS Viraat: Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which has now been decommissioned, set upon its final journey to Gujarat’s Alang on Saturday. There, the iconic carrier would be broken down and then sold as scrap, according to a report by news agency PTI. The vessel was towed by tug boats from the Gateway of India, where it was bid an emotional adieu by the veterans of the Indian Navy. The aircraft carrier had been kept at the Naval dockyard post its decommissioning back in March 2017, the report added. A Navy helicopter was circling the airspace as the majestic carrier was leaving the base after having served the country for a whopping 30 years.

The report quoted a defence spokesperson as saying that initially, the vessel was slated for departure on Friday, but it was delayed by a day. The vessel had been in the Royal Navy of the UK as HMS Hermes, and had been renamed to INS Viraat in 1987, when it was inducted into the Indian Navy, the report stated. Earlier, attempts were made to give Viraat a makeover and convert it into a museum or a restaurant, but the plans could not come to life.

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The report stated that the Shree Ram group, based in Alang, won the auction to dismantle the vessel, winning the bid for Rs 38.54 crore and its high-capacity tugs are pulling the ship to Gujarat. The vessel would cover the distance in about two days and reach Alang by September 21 if weather is favourable, the report quoted company chairman Mukesh Patel as saying. Gujarat’s Alang is the base for the biggest ship breaking yard in the world.

Once Viraat reaches Alang, it would need to get clearances from Customs and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board before it is brought ashore. Patel added that the majestic vessel would be scrapped in nine to 12 months.

Before serving in the Indian Navy, the vessel served in the UK’s Royal Navy for 27 years, taking the total operational service of the aircraft carrier to 56 years. This made it one of the oldest serving warships.

In India, Viraat has played key roles in several military operations, including Operation Vijay, Operation Jupiter and Operation Parakram, the report added.

With the breaking down of Viraat, India would witness the dismantling of an aircraft carrier for the second time, the first being the breaking down of Vikrant in 2014. The report added that as many as four officers serving on board the Viraat later became the chiefs of Indian Naval Staff.

Viraat proved its mettle and worth to the Indian Navy for three decades, even though the British Navy had predicted in 1986 (when India acquired the vessel) that the carrier would not be able to serve for over seven years. Viraat was at sea for over 2,250 days and covered a distance of 5.9 lakh nautical miles! It could carry as many as 25 aircraft.

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