"There used to be a time when we got hot water and cold food on board. That's been sorted out now
," said an Indian Navy aviator today, fondly, of his time on INS Viraat in the 1990s
, India's sole aircraft carrier, and one that continues to baffle her makers with her incredible, perplexing longevity. Today, it was revealed by another senior Indian Navy officer (not the aviator quoted above -- as one moronic commenter tried to correct me on) that the 28,000-ton carrier, which was transferred to India in 1987 for what was expected to be, in effect, a seven-year operational swansong, can actually stay operational for another ten years or more -- till 2020 if necessary. "She can go for another 5-10 years. The remarkable thing about Viraat
is that there are no foreseeable limits to her endurance," the officer said. Last year, she turned 50 following a life extension programme at the Cochin Shipyard (see photo) -- made necessary by the monumental Gorshkov
delays. This is a warship, it appears, that simply gets better with age. Literally.
The officer -- he played a key role in overseeing the life extension programme -- added, "We are known for our jugaad. But it wasn't just that. India has achieved a remarkable piece of engineering here, conducted entirely by an Indian firm with Indian knowhow. I can tell you Viraat is truly in great shape. We had to cut the ship open to replace her condensers. It was a true feat."
Under the life-extension programme, the Viraat
underwent a great deal of steel work, received a new radar, new ESM gear, new habitations, new messes and galleys that have made it supremely more comfortable." I spent two separate nights on board Viraat
in 2006 and 2007 out in the Arabian Sea -- she truly is a beaut. Ironically, chances are if she's pushed for another ten years, it's very likely Viraat
won't have any aircraft to fly off its deck.
Photo By Shiv Aroor