Mumbai, July 23: India’s magnificent second aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, which, in its previous avatar, led the British task force that retook the Falkland Islands in 1982, lifted anchor on Saturday afternoon for her final voyage from Mumbai to Kochi, powered by her own boilers, prior to her scheduled de-commissioning. The ageing ‘giant’ – as the name signifies – served the Indian Navy with distinction for almost six decades. It is expected to reach the Southern Naval Command base on Wednesday for the pre-decommissioning preparations, official sources said here.
This will entail a spell in a dry dock for dismantling and retrieving valuable and sensitive equipment including the engines, radars, big and small guns and other weaponry. Kicking-off the dismantling process on May 6, her fleet of Sea Harrier aircraft flew off for the last time from her deck and was given a formal farewell at INS Hansa, in Goa two days later.(Also Read: 2 killed on Indian Navy Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya after toxic gas leak)
Ranked as the oldest functional, floating aircraft carrier in the world and the last British-built ship serving the Indian Navy, INS Viraat was the star attraction at the International Fleet Review held in Visakhapatnam in February this year. As HMS Hermes, the vessel had served the Royal Navy from 1959 to 1964 and led a British task force on an 8,000 km voyage to free the Falkland Islands from Argentina, which had taken them over. Everyone had said it couldn’t be done, but the task force achieved the near impossible.