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INS Viraat (R22)

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INS Viraat front view.jpg

INS Viraat underway in February 2002
Career (India)
Name: INS Viraat
Ordered: 1943
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong
Laid down: 21 June 1944
Launched: 16 February 1953
Acquired: May 1987
Commissioned: 12 May 1987[1]
Decommissioned: 2016 (proposed) [2]
Refit: April 1986, July 1999, August 2008-November 2009, November 2012-July 2013
Homeport: Mumbai, Maharashtra[3]
Identification: Pennant number: R22
Motto: Jalameva Yasya, Balameva Tasya(Sanskrit: “He who rules over the seas is all powerful”)
Status: in active service, as of 2015
Crest of INS Viraat
General characteristics
Class and type: Centaur-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 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 x Parsons geared steam turbines; 4 boilers with 400 psi, 76,000 shp
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h)
Range: 6,500 mi (10,500 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: Maximum 2,100;
1,207 ship’s crew,
143 air crew
Sensors and
processing systems:
1 x BEL/Signaal RAWL 02 air radar
1 x RAWS 08 air/surface radar
2 x BEL Rashmi navigation radars
1 x EL/M-2221 STGR fire control radar
1 x Plessey Type 904 radar
1 x FT 13-S/M Tacan system
1 x Graseby Type 184M hull-mounted sonar
Electronic warfare
and decoys:
1 x BEL Ajanta ESM
2 x Knebworth Corvus chaff launchers
Armament: 2 x 40mm Bofors AA guns
16 x Barak SAM VL cells

2 x twin AK-230 CIWS

Aircraft carried: Up to 30 aircraft, including

INS Viraat (Hindi : भा नौ पो विराट )(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 is the oldest aircraft carrier in service in the world and is one of three carriers based in the Indian Ocean region.

Design and description[edit]

A Sea Harrier takes off from INSViraat. The Ski-Jump can be seen.

Viraat is fitted with a 12° ski jump to operate the Sea Harrier,[4] 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. In a wartime scenario, the INS Viraat can embark up to 26 combat aircraft. INS Viraat is suited for two missions: supporting amphibious operations and conducting ASW operations.

Air group[edit]

(Capacity for 26 total)

Combat data systems[edit]

The ship has been fitted with

  • Italian SELEX (former ELMER) communication suites
  • CAAIS action data automation; Link 10
  • SATCOM systems

Operational history[edit]

Viraat was completed and commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy’s HMS Hermes and was transferred to India in 1987. She was commissioned on 12 May 1987.[1] In 2009 there were reports[5][6] that after that year’s refit was concluded, India might keep the aircraft carrier in service until 2020. By then, the warship would have completed 60 years of service, over twice its initially estimated sailing life of 25 years. At that time the two Indigenous Aircraft Carriers (IACs) seemed likely to be fully operational, which was the reason to keep Viraat operational until then, according to unnamed Navy officers.[5] However, the warship’s age and cost of maintenance later prompted naval headquarters to consider decommissioning Viraat by 2017 or sooner.[7] In February 2015, the navy announced plans to decommission Viraat in 2016, and began the process to obtain Defence Ministry clearance for the carrier’s decommissioning.[8]

Royal Navy Service[edit]

Main article: HMS Hermes (R12)

INS Viraat was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on 18 November 1959, fifteen years after she was laid down in June 1944. During her career as Hermes, she served as the flagship of the Royal Navy’s task force during the Falkland Islands campaign in 1982. She would serve the Royal Navy another three years until she was decommissioned from active duty in 1985.

Induction into Indian Navy[edit]

After evaluating vessels from several countries, particularly the planned Italian Garibaldi-class,[9] the Indian Navy purchased the vessel in April 1986[10] and gave her an extensive refit at Devonport Dockyard inPlymouth, England, to allow for continued operability into the next decade.[11] 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.

First mid-service refit[edit]

In September 1993, the engine room of Viraat flooded, putting the vessel out of service for several months. By 1995, the vessel was back in service and had a new search radar.

Second mid-service refit[edit]

Between July 1999 and April 2001, INS Viraat completed another life-extension refit which was 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. In early June 2001 Viraat returned to service after nearly two years of refit.

The vessel also took part in the International Fleet Review in Mumbai in February 2001.

Third mid-service refit[edit]

The vessel had to be towed back to dry dock for another refit in mid-2003 and returned to service only in November 2004, during which the vessel was fitted with the Barak SAM.[12][13]

Indian Navy Sea Harriers and Indian Air Force SEPECAT Jaguars with a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet overflyViraat.

Fourth mid-service refit[edit]

Viraat underwent a fourth refit in Indian service from January to August 2009 at Cochin Shipyard, Kochi, India.[3] This refit was expected to ensure her continued service in the Indian Navy until 2015. Viraat went through exercises in the Arabian Sea for a month and a half before being deployed to the Gulf of Aden.[3][14]

Short refit[edit]

On 12 July 2011 INS Viraat arrived at Cochin Shipyard for a short refit scheduled to be completed in two months. As part of the refit the ship was cleaned, repaired and repainted to eliminate the problems faced by years of sea corrosion. According to Rear Adm. Anil Kumar Chawla, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff for Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence, it is possible that the ship could remain in service until 2020, provided that there are still Sea Harriers available for ship-borne operations[15]

Fifth mid-service refit[edit]

Viraat (top) escorting the Indian Navy’s newly acquired aircraft carrierVikramaditya during her delivery voyage

On 2 November 2012, Viraat arrived in Kochi for the first part of a major two-phase refit. In this first phase, scheduled to last through February 2013, the hull was cleaned, probed for corrosion and worn hull plates reinforced; the hull also received a fresh coat of corrosion-resistant paint.[16] The carrier was then scheduled to sail to Mumbai for further upgrades to her machinery, after which it would rejoin the fleet in the summer of 2013; the refit would enable her to serve through 2016. According to a senior naval officer, this would likely be Viraat‍ ’​s final major refit before her decommissioning.[17]

Air Arm[edit]

Viraat had four squadrons on board :

Decommissioning plans[edit]

In 2004, India bought the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov[18] from Russia for US$ 2.35 billion including its complement of aircraft.[19] It entered service in 2013 as INS Vikramaditya. Viraat was expected to be replaced by 2015-16 by a new indigenous Vikrant-class carrier, but after having her engine and hull refurbished and electronics upgraded, her service life was extended until 2020.[20][5] However, the warship’s age and cost of maintenance subsequently prompted naval headquarters to consider decommissioning Viraat by 2017.[7] In December 2014, Vice-Admiral Anil Chopra, the Flag Officer Commander-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command, said a review board had been established to determine Viraat ‘s continued service life, and that the carrier may be decommissioned by 2018.[21]

In February 2015, the navy announced plans to decommission Viraat in 2016, and began the process to obtain Defence Ministry clearance for the carrier’s decommissioning.[22] In July 2015, it was announced that Viraat would be transferred to the Andhra Pradeshstate government for conversion into a museum ship and tourist attraction, at a cost of 20 crore (US$3 million). She will be docked at Kakinada.[23]


See also[edit]

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