Kochi

Viraat to make a last call at Kochi

Captain Rajesh Pendharkar (left), commanding officer of aircraft carrier INS Viraat, arrives on the flight deck of the vessel for an interaction with the media. In the backdrop is the first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, undergoing outfitting at the moment.— Photo: Thulasi Kakkat  

The world’s oldest aircraft carrier in service, INS Viraat (R 22), will make one last visit to the Cochin Shipyard, which has carried out some 12 cycles of routine refit of the vessel, by the middle of next year for its decommissioning refit.

Also flying into sunset will be its integral, now depleted, fleet of Sea Harrier jump jets.

“They — the Harriers and the carrier — have a symbiotic relationship and it’s in the fitness of things to phase out both together,” Captain Rajesh Pendharkar, commanding officer of Viraat , told the media on board the vessel, which is slated to set course for Mumbai in a day or two after a short refit that lasted two months at the Cochin Shipyard.

The serviceability of the Harriers has been a tall order, with its British makers stopping production sometime ago. While the LUSH (Limited Upgrade Sea Harriers) programme enhanced their combat capabilities, the airframe is old. As for the carrier decommissioning, a final call on this will be taken at the highest (Ministry of Defence) level. It’s possible that it happens around this time next year, Captain Pendharkar said in response to queries.

(As first reported by The Hindu early this year, the decision to retire Viraat was catalysed, in part, by the increasing non-availability of the Harriers)

The short refit of Viraat at the shipyard was conducted to ensure upkeep of its underwater package, hull and underwater equipment, in line with its maintenance schedule. “I think Viraat might make one more visit to the yard for its decommissioning refit after the International Fleet Review (IFR) at Visakhapatnam in February next year.” Once the decision to retire the vessel will be finalised, the carrier will have a minimised crew with the routines reduced to safety checks, while the decommissioning refit will ensure the safety of the platform after live and reusable equipment are dismounted.

To a question, he said it’s possible that Viraat will be converted into a museum post its service life. However, the ship is in excellent condition at the moment; only last year it won the ‘Best Ship’ award. Thanks are due to the Cochin Shipyard for the level of maintenance it has done on the vessel, he said.

Meanwhile, outfitting is in progress on the first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant berthed just about 100-metres away.


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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 5:12:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/viraat-to-make-a-last-call-at-kochi/article7694037.ece

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