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INS Viraat

The government has decided to scrap Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Viraat, following the trajectory of the country’s first carrier INS Vikrant. Docked at the Mumbai naval yard since being decommissioned in 2017, INS Viraat has been expensive to maintain, according to Shripad Naik, Minister of State for Defence.

Originally built as the HMS Hermes for the UK Royal Navy, the INS Viraat was sold to India in 1986. A vital part of Indian naval history, Viraat was deployed for important peace-keeping missions off the coast of Sri Lanka in 1988, and in the Kargil War in 1999.

State governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh had expressed interest in purchasing and preserving the vessel. The Maharashtra government had mooted a Rs852-crore plan to turn it into a maritime museum, to be jointly managed with a private player. Alternatively, it proposed to sink the ship off the Konkan coast and turn it into a dive site. The Andhra government had also drafted a Rs1,000-crore plan to turn it into a naval museum. But it appears none of these plans have materialised. In the absence of a “self-sustaining financially complete” proposal from state governments to preserve the carrier, and taking rising expenses into account, the Centre has finally decided to scrap the vessel.

The decision to scrap INS Viraat has prompted an outcry from the Indian naval community. Former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash said that reducing INS Vikrant, the “maritime icon of the 1971 war” to scrap was “shameful enough“ and now, “we have failed yet again to muster national will and a few hundred crores to preserve another proud warship, INS Viraat.” Vice-Admiral Jaggi Bedi tweeted, “Indeed a sad day for the naval fraternity. The nation does not have the will, inclination or tradition to preserve such historical artefacts, which would motivate future generations and keep maritime history alive.”


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