Finally, aircraft carrier Viraat to be scraped

Navy has been incurring expenditure on its upkeep such as the provision of electricity and water, and repairs till date, says Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik .

: Over two years after it was decommissioned from service, aircraft carrier Viraat is going to be scrapped, Parliament was informed on Monday. Efforts to keep it intact by converting it into a museum or other means have not been successful.

“INS Viraat could not be handed over to any State Government because of non-receipt of a self-sustaining financially complete proposal. Thus, in view of considerations of safety, security etc., a decision to scrap INS Viraat has been taken in due consultation with Indian Navy,” Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

The Navy had been incurring expenditure on its upkeep such as the provision of electricity and water, and repairs till date, Mr. Naik said.

The carrier was in the news in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections a few months back as Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed in an election speech that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had used Viraat for a personal holiday in 1987 along with his family. However, this was promptly rejected by the top brass of the Navy a day later. They stated that Rajiv Gandhi was onboard on an official trip en route to Lakshadweep.

There had been demands from various quarters to not let Viraat go the Vikrant way, India’s first carrier that was eventually scrapped. Several States had submitted proposals, but none of them fructified. Andhra Pradesh, headed by former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, had made several attempts. It submitted a proposal in October 2016 for the conversion of Viraat as an aircraft museum, including tourist and hospitality components on a commercial basis through a joint venture with the Centre. But the Defence Ministry rejected the proposal two months later.

Maharashtra’s prtoposal

In 2018, the Maharashtra Cabinet approved a proposal to convert the carrier into a museum and hospitality centre on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis, but there were no takers.

Viraat, a Centaur class aircraft carrier weighing 27,800 tonnes, had served in the British Navy as HMS Hermes for 25 years from November 1959 to April 1984 and after refurbishment was commissioned into the Indian Navy in May 1987. It was decommissioned from the Navy in March 2017 at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai.

Vikrant, also a Centaur class, too, was maintained by the Navy in Mumbai for 17 years as various proposals to convert it into a museum went back and forth unsuccessfully before the ship was eventually sent to a scrapyard in 2014.

The Navy has stated on several occasions that it cannot keep Viraat indefinitely as it would block space in the already crowded Mumbai dockyard.

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