India decommissions its aircraft carrier INS Viraat

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Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier INS Viraat was decommissioned in Mumbai on Monday after 56 years of service.

The ship had its naval ensign and commissioning pennant hauled down one last time during a ceremony attended by all of 21 Indian Navy commanding officers to have commanded the carrier in almost three decades it spent with the Indian Navy.

Prior to coming to India, INS Viraat was known as HMS Hermes, a UK Royal Navy Centaur-class aircraft carrier built by Vickers-Armstrong and commissioned in November 1959.

HMS Hermes was sold to India in 1986 and recommissioned into Indian Navy service as INS Viraat. Serving until 2016, Viraat was also the last British-built ship to sail under the Indian Navy flag.

The current head of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, Fist Sea Lord Admiral Philip Jones also attended today’s ceremony in India.

It is not known what will happen with the ship after the decommissioning as a final decision is yet to be made. However, speaking ahead of the ceremony, Indian Navy chief told reporters that Viraat would be scrapped if the navy does not find a buyer in the next four months.

There were also talks of sinking the ship and turning it into an artificial reef, while the Andra Pradesh government is reportedly looking to convert the ship into a museum.

This article was edited to correct the headline saying that INS Viraat was the Indian Navy’s first aircraft carrier. INS Vikrant was the first Indian aircraft carrier.

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