INS Viraat Sails Into History After 57 Years of Service

The historic ship, built in 1943, served India for 30 years.

The majestic INS Viraat, the world's oldest serving aircraft carrier, sailed into pages of history on Monday with the final lowering of the Naval Ensign and Commissioning Pendant in a solemn ceremony at sundown.

The formal decommissioning function was presided over by Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, past and present officers from the Indian Navy and Royal Navy, dignitaries and others, marking the culmination of several pre-decommissioning functions in the past few days.

Monday's ceremonies included the release of a Special Cover by Army Postal Service and a book on the history of INS Viraat, which was known as HMS Hermes during her tenure with Britain's Royal Navy.

The country's second Centaur-class vessel, it served 29 years under the Indian flag, preceded by 27 years with the Royal Navy, earning a Guinness World Record as the oldest serving warship on earth.

Though the future of the Guinness Record holder warship is still undecided, Lanba told NDTV that if there are no buyers in the next four months, the ship will be broken up and sold for scrap.

The Andhra Pradesh government has formally evinced interest in making the INS Viraat a museum, though similar plans for the erstwhile Vikrant had failed.

Under the Indian flag, INS Viraat clocked more than 22,622 flying hours by various aircraft, spent around 2,252 days at sea sailing 10,94,215 km, and since her inception her boiler was running for 80,715 hours.

She played a major role in the Operation Jupiter in 1989 in Sri Lankan Peace Keeping operations, Operation Parakram in 2001-2002 when India and Pakistan were in a stand-off post-terror strikes on Indian Parliament, among others.

(With inputs from IANS.)