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INS Vikrant (R11)
INS Vikrant circa 1984 carrying a unique complement of Sea Harriers, Sea Hawks, Allouette & Sea King helicopters and Alize ASW.jpg
INS Vikrant in 1984
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Hercules (R49)
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong/Harland and Wolff
Laid down: 12 November 1943
Launched: 22 September 1945
Commissioned: Never commissioned
Renamed: INS Vikrant (R11)
Fate: Laid up in March 1946; Sold to India in 1957
Career (India)
Name: INS Vikrant (R11)
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong/Harland and Wolff
Commissioned: 4 March 1961
Decommissioned: 31 January 1997
Fate: Preserved as a maritime museum in Mumbai
18°55′53″N 72°50′33″E / 18.9313°N 72.8424°E / 18.9313; 72.8424Coordinates: 18°55′53″N 72°50′33″E / 18.9313°N 72.8424°E / 18.9313; 72.8424
General characteristics
Type: Majestic-class light carrier
Displacement: 15,700 tons standard, 19,500 tons full load
Length: 192 m (630 ft) waterline, 213.3 metres (700 ft) extreme
Beam: 24.4 m (80 ft) waterline, 39 metres (128 ft) extreme
Draught: 7.3 m (24 ft)
Propulsion: 2 Parsons geared steam turbines 40,000 hp (30 MW), 4 Admiralty three-drum boilers
Speed: 23 knots (43 km/h)
Range: 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 1,075 usual,
1,340 wartime
Armament: 16 × 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns (later reduced to 8)
Armor: none
Aircraft carried: Hawker Sea Hawk
Westland Sea King
HAL Chetak
Sea Harrier
Breguet Alizé Br.1050

INS Vikrant (R11) (Sanskrit language: विक्रान्‍त, for courageous) (formerly HMS Hercules (R49)) was a Majestic class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy.[1] She played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade on East Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

India purchased the INS Vikrant from the United Kingdom in 1957. Upon her completion in 1961, she was commissioned as the first aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. After a distinguished service, she was decommissioned in January 1997. She has since been preserved as a maritime museum in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai. She is the only World War II-era British-built aircraft carrier to be preserved as a museum.[citation needed]


INS Vikrant was ordered as the HMS Hercules (R49) by the Royal Navy. She was laid down on 12 November 1943 by Vickers-Armstrong on the River Tyne.[2] She was launched on 22 September 1945. However, with the end of World War II, her construction was suspended in May 1946 and she was laid up for possible future use.[3]

In January 1957 she was sold to India. She was towed to Belfast to complete her construction and for modifications by Harland and Wolff. A number of improvements to the original design were ordered by the Indian Navy, including an angled deck, steam catapults and a modified island.[4]

The Indian Navy considered buying her sister HMS Leviathan (R97) as well and commissioning her as the INS Vikram (R13). However, this never materialized due to budgetary concerns.

File:INS Vikrant Mar 1962.jpg

The Vikrant, as seen from HMS Centaur - March 1962

Hawker Sea Hawk

The Alize Anti-Submarine Aircraft

INS Vikrant (R11) was commissioned into the Indian Navy by then Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Vijayalakshmi Pandit on 4 March 1961 in Belfast. The name Vikrant was taken from Sanskrit vikrānta meaning "stepping beyond", i.e. "courageous" or "bold". Captain Pritam Singh was the first commanding officer of the carrier.[5] The Vikrant's initial air wing consisted of British Hawker Sea Hawk fighter-bombers and a French Alize anti-submarine aircraft. On 18 May 1961, the first jet landed on her deck piloted by Lieutenant (later Admiral) Radhakrishna Hariram Tahiliani. She formally joined the Indian Navy's Fleet in Bombay on 3 November 1961, when she was received at Ballard Pier by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, Pakistan reported that it had sunk the Vikrant.[6] However, at the time the ship was in dry dock undergoing modifications.

In June 1970, the INS Vikrant was at the Naval Dockyard for repairs due to a crack in a water drum of one of the boilers powering her steam catapult. Unable to procure a replacement drum from the United Kingdom due to an embargo, Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda ordered the routing of steam from her forward machinery to the steam catapult to bypass the damaged boiler. This repair enabled her to launch both the Sea Hawks as well as the Breguet Alizé, although she lost some cruising power. In March 1971, she was put through trials to test the fix.[7] These modifications turned out to be valuable, enabling the Vikrant to enter combat despite the cracked boiler against East Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.[4][8]

Stationed off the Andaman & Nicobar Islands along with frigates, INS Brahmaputra (1958) and INS Beas (1960), the Vikrant redeployed towards Chittagong at the outbreak of hostilities.[9] Based on Naval Intelligence reports that the Pakistan Navy intended to break through the Indian Naval blockade using camouflaged merchant ships, the Sea Hawks struck shipping in the Chittagong and Cox's Bazar harbors, sinking or incapacitating most ships in harbor. On the morning of 4 December 1971, the eight Sea Hawk aircraft on the Vikrant launched an air raid on Cox's Bazar from 60 nautical miles (110 km) offshore. On the evening of 4 December, the air group struck Chittagong Harbor. Later strikes targeted Khulna and Port of Mongla. A PTI report of 4 December read, "Chittagong harbour ablaze as ships and aircraft of the Eastern Naval Fleet bombed and rocketed. Not a single vessel can be put to sea from Chittagong." Air strikes continued until 10 December 1971 with not a single Sea Hawk lost.

The Pakistan Navy deployed the submarine PNS Ghazi to specifically target and sink the INS Vikrant. However, the Ghazi sank off Visakhapatnam harbor likely due to depth charges by INS Rajput (D141).[10] During the war, the crew of Vikrant earned two Mahavir Chakras and 12 Vir Chakras.[citation needed]

Air Arm

The Vikrant had four squadrons on board :

  • INAS 300 "White Tigers" - flying Sea Hawks.
  • INAS 310 "Cobras" - flying Alizes.
  • INAS 321 "Angels" - flying Alouettes.
  • INAS 330 "Harpoons" - flying Sea Kings.
Squadron Insignia

Subsequent service

Vikrant preserved as a museum ship in Mumbai with historic aircraft visible on the flight deck.

Aircraft elevator of Vikrant.

Vikrant was given an extensive refit, including new engines and modernization between 1979 and 3 January 1982. Between December 1982 and February 1983 she was refitted again to enable her to operate BAe Sea Harriers which replaced the Sea Hawk. After the retirement of the Breguet Alizé from carrier service in 1989, she received a 'ski jump' for more efficient use of her Sea Harriers.

Vikrant was India's only carrier for over twenty years, but by the early 1990s she was effectively out of service because of her poor condition. Even following major overhauls she was rarely put to sea. She was formally decommissioned on 31 January 1997. Following her decommissioning, Vikrant was marked for preservation as a museum ship in Mumbai, although a lack of funding has prevented progress on the ship's conversion for this role.[11][12] Similarly, speculation that the ship would be made into a training ship in 2006[13] came to nothing. Vikrant is open to the public by the Indian Navy for short periods, but as of April 2010, the Government of Maharashtra has been unable to find an industrial partner to operate the museum on a permanent, long-term basis.[11][12]

In August 2013, Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha, chief of the Western Naval Command, said the Ministry of Defence would scrap Vikrant as she had become "very difficult to maintain," and as no private bidders had offered to fund the museum's operations.[14]

She is the only World War II-era British-built aircraft carrier to be preserved as a museum.

See also



  1. Pradeep Barua. The State of War in South Asia. 
  2. Klaus Dodds. Pink ice: Britain and the South Atlantic Empire. 
  3. "HMS Hercules". Fleet Air Arm Archive. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Richard Jones, Chris Bishop, Chris Chant, Christopher Chant. Aircraft Carriers: The World's Greatest Naval Vessels and Their Aircraft. 
  5. - Indian Museum Ship (Vikrant) Mumbai
  6. "R11 Vikrant". Global Security. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  7. Vice Admiral G.M. Hiranandani. "The Evolution of the Navy's Plan of Operations". Transition to Triumph. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  8. "Great battles: Liberation of Bangladesh 2 of 2". YouTube. 
  9. "Indian Navy at War 1971 East". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  10. Seapower: A Guide for the Twenty-first Century By Geoffrey Till
  11. 11.0 11.1 "R 11 Vikrant". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Tembhekar, Chittaranjan (14 April 2010). "No takers for INS Vikrant's museum plan". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  13. P R Sanjai / Mumbai March 14, 2006 (2006-03-14). "INS Vikrant will now be made training school". Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  14. Naik, Yogesh (10 August 2013). "Vikrant museum to be scrapped as Navy readies new carrier". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 


External links

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