Andhra Pradesh hopes to convert the recently decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat into a “dedicated tourist attraction”. The Andhra government on Friday issued tender notices inviting bids to appoint consultants for preparing a techno-economic feasibility report and detailed cost estimates to refurbish and convert INS Viraat into a tourism hotspot. The last date for submitting bids is July 26. Decommissioned formally on March 6, after putting in around four decades of service on the high seas, INS Viraat is presently docked in the Mumbai harbour. She displaced nearly 28,500 tonnes and was capable of operating Sea Harrier jets, short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) fighter aircraft, and practically all kinds of naval helicopters. The ship’s most striking feature was the 12-degree ramp on the bow which helped enhance the safety and the radius of operation and payload carrying capacity of her contingent of Sea Harriers. During her heyday, she was equipped with Close-in Weapons System for self-defence and a Computer-Aided Action Information Systems which gave the command a full picture of the tactical scenario based on information fed to the computer from all onboard sensors. This afforded rapid decision making and enabled the destruction of hostile platforms before they could threaten her as reaction times on the seas are minimal. Post-decommissioning, INS Viraat’s condition was described as “very good” and she was manned by a small contingent of Indian Navy sailors for her routine upkeep and maintenance. Officials said that though the ship was in their custody in Mumbai, all decisions pertaining to her disposal, conversion or any other utility shall be taken only by Ministry of Defence. Her keel was laid in 1944, she was launched in 1953 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on November 18, 1959 as HMS Hermes.
On May 12, 1987, she was taken over and commissioned under the White Ensign of Indian Navy and rechristened INS Viraat. In her previous avatar, she served as the flagship of the South Atlantic Task Force during the commencement of the 1982 Falklands War when her aircraft operated round the clock, units from the ship destroyed many enemy aircraft in the air and surface.
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Britain’s Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, once served on HMS Hermes, which boasted some of the most modern and intriguing facilities and amenities on board for the officers and sailors manning her.
It may be recalled that her iconic predecessor, India’s first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant had languished for nearly 17 years with no takers and had become dangerous to maintain. Finally, despite all efforts to save her, she was broken down and sold off as metal scrap in November 2014 by a Mumbai shipbreaker.