India’s solitary aircraft carrier, the 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, is central to the Navy’s concept of operations both in war and peace, with its complement of Sea Harrier jump-jets and helicopters.
In keeping with its motto of Jalamev Yasya, Balamev Tasya (He who controls the sea is all powerful), the Navy hopes to make INS Viraat soldier on till at least 2012.
Considering that it was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes as far back as in 1959 and joined the Indian Navy in 1987, that will be quite a remarkable feat.
Here’s the Viraat:
Port side view of the Indian Hermes Class Aircraft Carrier INS (Indian Navy Ship) VIRAAT (R 22) underway in the Indian Ocean as part of Exercise MALABAR 2005. The exercise designed to increase interoperability between the two navies while enhancing the cooperative security relationship between India and the United States. The at-sea exercise includes maritime interdiction, surface events, sub-surface, air events, and personnel exchanges. Camera Operator: PH3 SHANNON E. RENFROE, USN Date Shot: 25 Sep 2005
India is hoping to have a second carrier in their fleet by 2009. It will be the INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov. Capable of operating MiG-29K fighters, it’s undergoing refit in Russia for transfer to India as part of a 2004 arms agreement.
Additionally, India has recently started construction on a carrier of its own, a 37,500 ton design that is expected to be complete in 2012 or 2013. That date is probably the driving force for the decision to keep the Viraat operating until then.