Iconic warship Vikrant now in scrapyard

Iconic warship Vikrant now in scrapyard

The scrapping of India’s first aircraft carrier and the star of the 1971 Indo-Pak war began on Thursday at the Darukhana ship breaking yard here after several failed attempts to convert the majestic war ship into a maritime museum.

“Yes we have started the process of breaking the ship from Thursday. The day-to-day process has started and it will take six to eight months,” Abdul Karim Jakha, the proprietor of IB Commercial Pvt Ltd, a ship breaking company that won the bid to purchase the vessel for Rs 63 crore, told Deccan Herald.

Commissioned on February 16, 1961, Vikrant joined the Western Fleet at Bombay (now Mumbai) on November 3,1961. Armed with powerful anti-aircraft guns, the ex-Royal Navy ship was one of the six majestic-class light fleet carriers and the keel was laid in 1943.
The ship has a length of 700 feet, an extreme beam of 128 feet (width) and a draught of 24 feet. The displacement is around 20,000 tonne.

While Chetaks and the Westland-make Seakings operated from this ship, the initial batch of aircraft were the SeaHawks. The ship was also equipped with a catapult launch and arrester wire recovery. Later, the ski-jump was added and the carrier was made capable for SeaHarriers, which are short-take-off and vertical landing type.

Vikrant’s first active operation was for the liberation of Goa in December 1961. The first war-operation was the Indo-Pak war of 1965, but the ship was undergoing a periodical refit at that time.

Vikrant's real opportunity came in the 1971 Indo-Pak war when Bangladesh was liberated. Vikrant was decommissioned on January 31, 1997, after 36 years of glorious service to the Navy.

The Maharashtra government was helpless though having taken keen interest in the initial stages. The state government had accorded approval to convert Vikrant into a modern museum under a Built, Operate and Transfer project to be implemented by the Maharashtra Urban Infrastructure Development Company Ltd.

Vikrant was to be permanently berthed off the Oyster Rock near the Radio Club alongside the Gateway of India, but since the ship was decommissioned, the maritime museum project has ran into rough weather several times.

“It is unfortunate that we could not save the ship. I have approached everyone....the Maharashtra government, the Centre, the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court...it is a sad day of my life....we were hoping against hope,” Kiran Paigankar, who had challenged the scrapping in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court, told Deccan Herald.

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