Several eyes moistened as India's second aircraft-carrier, the Falklands-hardened INS Viraat, set sail on Saturday from the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai. This will be her last journey as an Indian Naval Ship.
On reaching Kochi, the ship will be dry-docked and repaired for decommissioning later this year.
Built in 1959 and first commissioned in Britain's Royal Navy as HMS Hermes, the carrier had seen action in the Falklands war. India bought it in 1987 and commissioned her as INS Viraat. For long, Viraat served as Indian Navy's second carrier (after INS Vikrant).
Viraat operated Sea Harrier vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fighters, Seaking 42B, Seaking 42C and Chetak helicopters. The entire Sea Harrier fleet was decommissioned at Goa in May.
This morning, Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command and other senior officers of the command, visited the ship and interacted with the crew prior to her departure, a navy press note said. The carrier was escorted out of harbour by Fast Interceptor Craft and helicopters from the Western Naval Command.
It was indeed an emotional moment for the Navy, as INS Viraat left the Naval Dockyard Mumbai, for 'one last time' under own power. The ship will be towed back to Mumbai after removal of her engine and other repairs, for the decommissioning ceremony later this year.
The navy will now be left with one carrier, INS Vikramaditya, a Russian-built carrier originally commissioned as Admiral Gorshkov in the Russian Navy. Another mid-sized carrier, which will also be named Vikrant in honour of the first carrier, has been built by Cochin Shipyard, Kochi, and is being readied for commission.