KOCHI: INS Viraat, the 57-year-old iconic warship, bid final good bye to Kochi early on Sunday as she sailed to Mumbai for decommissioning amid emotional scenes as the band of the Southern Naval Command payed its final tribute on the solemn occasion.
INS Viraat sailed from the Ernakulam Wharf of the Cochin Port watched by dignitaries, including the Chief of Staff of the Southern Naval Command Rear Admiral Ravindra Jayanti Nadkarni. Decommissioning means the warship will no longer be operational and funds will no longer be allocated for its upkeep. The warship had a special bond with Kochi and the Cochin Shipyard as she was refitted here periodically over the last 30 years. The ship was inducted into the Indian Navy in 1987, after being acquired from Britain.
INS Viraat is an impressive aircraft carrier, with a large hangar and runway. The ship can carry 24 aircraft in various combinations including the Sea Harriers, Sea Kings and Chetaks.
Viraat—the Sanskrit word for giant—has spent 2,250 days at sea, and sailed a distance of 10,94,215 km, a distance that is as much as if she had circled the globe 27 times.
When fully operational, Viraat had a crew of 1,500. The ship also has a 12-degree ski jump and can accommodate 750 troops. The Viraat played a major role in Operation Jupiter in 1989 (Sri Lankan Peace-Keeping Force), while in Operation Vijay (1999) it created a blockade against Pakistan during the Kargil War.
The ship has also participated in international joint exercises like Malabar (with the US Navy), Varuna (French Navy), and Naseem-Al-Bahar (Oman Navy). It also holds the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest serving warship.
Interestingly, five chiefs of naval staff have served on its board.