Mumbai, March 6: INS Viraat, the oldest serving aircraft carrier, will be decommissioned by the Indian Navy on Monday. The Centaur-class carrier is called the Old Lady as it has been protecting the waters for around 58 years, the only carrier to have done that.
INS Viraat was first put into use by Britain’s Royal Navy. It was recognised as HMS Hermes. The Royal Navy decommissioned the ship in 1987. The Indian government bought the carrier for $6.5 crore. Since then, it has been guarding Indian maritime territory.
With the decommissioning, the Indian Navy would be without two aircraft carriers as INS Vikrant had also been decommissioned. INS Viraat had also been registered for the Guinness World Records as the longest serving warship.
The warship last sailed from Mumbai to Kochi in July last year. In October 2016, it was towed from Kochi to Mumbai for a formal decommissioning. (Also read: Tral Encounter: Terrorist presumed dead opens fire on security forces, neutralised)
India bought the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov from Russia for 2.35 billion US dollars. It was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 2013 as INS Vikramaditya. The cost of maintenance of the INS Viraat was mounting, resulting in its decommissioning.
The ceremony will be attended by several dignitaries. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar would be attending the ceremony.
The gala event will see the lowering and wrap-up of the naval flag installed on the warship at sunset, marking an end to a long sea odyssey lasting 55 years, including 30 years in the Indian Navy.
A decision on the warship’s future has not been taken yet, the sources said. Talks are on with the Andhra Pradesh government which has expressed interest in taking in the ship. However, as of now, it is not clear what fate would befall the great old lady.
(With agency inputs)