The Indian Navy has set a date for the retirement of INS Viraat, a ship perhaps better known as HMS Hermes and the Royal Navy’s flagship during the Falklands War. The aircraft carrier will receive a grand send-off at the International Fleet Review, to be held at Visakhapatnam in February 2016.
Increasing maintenance costs and depletion of the Sea Harrier fleet has accelerated the decision to withdraw her from service after 29 years.
Only a handful of aircraft remain in airworthy condition, with others being cannibalised for spares. The decommissioning of Viraat is also likely to signal the end for the Sea Harrier too. INS Vikramaditya and the under-construction INS Vikrant will use the much more capable MiG-29K aircraft.
It seems inevitable that Viraat will be scrapped. India’s first carrier, Vikrant, which was slated for preservation as a maritime museum after retirement in 1997, is now being broken up after her upkeep became unviable.