The Indian Navy's former flagship, INS Viraat, will be retired at sunset today after nearly six decades in service. Sinking the Viraat and converting into a tourist attraction for divers is one of the plans being considered for the ship, Navy chief Sunil Lanba said.
"One proposal could be that we convert her into a marine museum by taking her to one of our major tourist harbours and sink her and make her into a dive site ... where some aircraft carriers have been put to rest also ... and she would be there as a legacy," Admiral Lanba said.
He also said if no buyer is found for the ship in four months, it could be broken up and sold as scrap. "It depends on who bids and gets the contract," said the Navy chief, asked whether the ship was headed to Aland in Gujarat to be broken down.
He said INS Viraat would be moved for scrapping only after a four-six month period. "I have some other proposal in my mind, which I will put forward and see what happens," he said.
The Andhra Pradesh government had proposed the idea of converting the old ship into a museum, but the project will cost almost Rs1,000 crore.
INS Viraat has spent 30 years in the Indian Navy after 27 years in the UK's Royal Navy, making her 57 years old.
Sea Harrier fighters, Sea King and Kamov helicopters this morning flew off the ship, which has sailed nearly 11 lakh km, enough to cover the globe 27 times.
INS Viraat played a major role in 1989 in the Sri Lankan peacekeeping operation and was also used during the Operation Parakram after the 2001 Parliament attack.
The ship will be decommissioned at a solemn ceremony in Mumbai today, where 21 of its 22 former commanders will be present.
In the heart of the old steamship, temperatures rose to 60 degrees Centigrade during operations, said officers. This part of the ship was constructed before the Second World War and mostly remains unchanged even decades later.