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World's oldest aircraft carrier INS Viraat could soon be a museum

July 23, 2015 08:41 IST

After 57 years of service life -- first commissioned in 1959 into the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes (R-12) and then transferred to India in 1987 -- the last of the Centaur-class conventional aircraft carriers, INS Viraat could soon be an aircraft carrier museum.

The museum will have memorabilia from INS Vikrant, history of Naval Aviation and also details of the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict.

The ministry of defence is considering converting the last British ship serving the Indian Navy into a self-sustaining aircraft carrier museum on the lines of the US Navy’s Aircraft Carrier Museum. 

INS Viraat, the country's warship commissioned in 1987, is likely to be decommissioned following the International Fleet Review in Visakhapatnam in February next year. It will be brought to Mangaluru to set up an aircraft carrier museum if a proposal by Dakshina Kannada in this regard was approved.

INS Viraat’s service life surpasses the longest-serving American carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN-65), by seven years. The warship was intended to be decommissioned in 2009, but the refurbishment of Soviet-built carrier INS Vikramaditya (R-33) was delayed so INS Viraat underwent additional refits and continued its work.

This museum will have memorabilia from INS Vikrant, history of Naval Aviation and also details of the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict.

Naval officers walk as others stand as they wait for the arrival of India's Chief of Naval Staff Admiral RK Dhowan (not pictured) to inspect a guard of honor aboard INS Viraat, an aircraft carrier, during an event in Mumbai April 20, 2015. Photograph: Shailesh Andrade/Reuters

The DK administration feels it was an ideal location in the west coast for the project for various reasons.

In his letter to Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee and Principal Secretary to Karnataka Infrastructure Development Vanditha Sharma, DK deputy commissioner A B Ibrahim said the port in Mangaluru had a long history of warfare, and the city was well connected by rail, road, sea and air to the rest of the world.

The city had a population of five lakh while the district had a 20 lakh population, he said.

The Indian Navy's aircraft carrier Viraat is anchored at sea in Visakhapatnam February 11, 2006. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/Reuters

Expressing the district's interest to bring INS Viraat to Mangaluru shores, he said the port had a history of more than 2,000 years and was known as a good naval facility with naval warfare of Dutch, Portugese, British, with local kings, including Rani Abbakka of Ullal and Tipu Sultan of Mysuru.

If the museum was set up in Mangaluru, it would create curiosity towards defence forces and help promote patriotism among youths of the region, he said in the letter.

The coastline and the banks of the Gurupura and Nethravati rivers encircling the city would be an ideal location to the INS Viraat aircraft carrier museum.

The British warship -- earlier known as HMS Hermes -- was acquired by the Indian Navy on May 12, 1987, after completing 28 years under the Union Jack and having participated in the Falklands campaign of the Royal Navy in 1982.

"It can be berthed either on the Bengre Sand Pit area or in mainland. Even a floating one can also be explored in the Nethravati river for the ship, measuring approximately around 10,000 sq m," Ibrahim said.

The department of archaeology or tourism may take up the responsibility of maintaining the museum, he added.

Ibrahim requested the chief secretary to send the proposal to the Flag Officer Commanding, Karnataka Naval Area and to the Defence Ministry at the earliest.

INS Viraat has the rare distinction of being commanded by three officers who rose up to become the chiefs of Indian Navy.

Goa and Andhra Pradesh were also in the race to bring the project to their states, he said.

The Rediff News Bureau