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Updated: August 17, 2009 15:59 IST

INS Viraat refit complete, gears up for golden jubilee

IANS
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INS Viraat undergoing an 8-month life-extension refit at the Cochin Shipyard Limited. Photo: H.Vibhu
INS Viraat undergoing an 8-month life-extension refit at the Cochin Shipyard Limited. Photo: H.Vibhu

India’s lone aircraft carrier has served the Indian Navy for 50 years. After an extensive refit, INS Viraat is ready to stay on in the Navy till 2015.

It's an old warhorse, 50 years old to be exact. But after a life-extending refit, India's lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat is back to show it still has enough steam to give the jitters to the enemy.

INS Viraat, meaning giant in Sanskrit and which has a crew of 1,500 personnel, has been docked at Cochin Shipyard Ltd for the past year for repair and maintenance. The refit will increase the aircraft carrier's sea life with the Indian Navy till 2015.

"The refit of the aircraft carrier has been completed. Currently it is floating (in the docks)," a senior official at the shipyard told IANS requesting anonymity. "By the beginning of next month, it is expected to go to its parent base at Mumbai in the Western Naval Command."

And it will be received with a great bang — a golden jubilee celebration for completing 50 years of service.

The 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, the Centaur class aircraft carrier, was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes Nov 18, 1959. The Indian Navy acquired the platform in 1987 after it had served the Royal Navy for nearly 28 years.

An extensive refit - with brand new fire control equipment, navigation radars, improved nuclear, biological and chemical protection and deck landing aids - increased the life of the vessel into the next decade.

In September 1993, the engine room of Viraat was flooded, temporarily putting the vessel out of service. By 1995, the vessel was back with a new search radar.

Apart from some major and minor refits at different times, including one in 2006, INS Viraat underwent an extensive life-extension refit in 1999-2000, with new and upgraded propulsion, sensors, sonar, radars, weapons, communication and flood-control systems.

A Royal Navy team will also attend the golden jubilee celebrations of Viraat.

The aircraft carrier gives the Indian Navy an edge over the Chinese navy, which does not have one.

The Indian Navy will get its second aircraft carrier - the Russian-built Admiral Gorshkov - which is expected to be inducted by 2012.

INS Viraat is pivotal to the navy's aim to project its naval and air power beyond its borders. It provides operation ground for Sea Harrier combat jets. It can embark up to 18 combat aircraft and is suited for supporting amphibious operations and conducting anti-submarine warfare.

Gorshkov, on the other hand, will operate 16 MiG-29 K fighter jets. The two aircraft carriers will increase the reach of the India's blue water navy.

India earlier this year laid the keel for its indigenous 37,500-tonne aircraft carrier at the Cochin Shipyard. The carrier would be inducted by 2015.

On July 26, India launched into the waters its first indigenous nuclear-powered attack submarine, built under the Advanced Technology Vessel project with Russian help. Once this vessel, INS Arihant, is commissioned around 2012, India will become only the sixth country after the US, Russia, China, France and Britain to possess a nuclear-powered submarine.

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