Navy could retire INS Viraat, to get Gorshkov on Dec 4

It has been in service for over 50 years and now INS Viraat, the lone aircraft carrier operated by the Indian Navy, could be on its last legs with the Navy undertaking a detailed survey to determine when to decommission the warship.

Sources said the internal hull of the warship, which was first commissioned in the British Navy in 1959, is giving way from the wear and tear of over half a century of sailing. A detailed project is now being carried out to determine the residual service of the carrier. The Navy, which has already stretched the service life of the warship beyond expectation, is not too keen to keep it going on for much longer.

However, there is reason to cheer as its replacement is now on target with Russia confirming that the Gorshkov, that will be rechristened as the INS Vikramaditya, will be ready for commissioning on December 4.

Vice-Admiral Ganesh Mahadevan, who led the renegotiation committee of the warship and is currently the Chief of Material (COM) of the Navy, confirmed this. "The new date has now been cast in stone," he said. The senior officer, who is retiring this month after 40 years of service, said the aircraft carrier has been extensively refitted and will now have a service life of four decades, double of what was decided in the first contract signed in 2004.

The officer also said work on the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), which will be christened as the INS Vikraant, is also progressing and the warship would be able to operate both MiG 29K and the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

Initial difficulties in producing an arrester wire that would cater for both fighters which are of different weight categories have been sorted out with Russian assistance, Mahadevan said. He elaborated that work on the second indigenous carrier has not started as the Navy is still firming up its specifications. He hinted that the Navy would want a greater variety of aircraft to operate from the second ship, including heavier surveillance aircraft.

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