INS Vikrant

The Indian Navy's first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant R11, at her commissioning on 16 February 1961. Hero of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, she was the pride and flagship of the Indian Navy. Image © Indian NavyINS Vikrant steams out of Malta on its way to Bombay in 1961. Ship's personnel and her complement of Sea Hawk aircraft are neatly lined up on deck. Image © Vayu Aerospace Review via Pawan KaulThe Vikrant out at sea - circa early 1990s. During this period, the Vikrant rarely left port due to her old age. Notice the pair of Bréguet Alizés and a single Sea King Mk.42 helicopter. Image © Indian NavyA line drawing of the Vikrant.

Vessel Type: Light Fleet Aircraft Carrier. (Majestic Class)

Name & Pennant Number: Vikrant (R11).

Laid Down: 12 October 1943.

Launched: 22 September 1945.

Commission Date: 04 March 1961. Laid up till purchased by India in January 1957.

Decommission Date: 31 January 1997.

Displacement: 16,000 tons standard.
...................19,500 tons full load.

Dimensions: Length - 700 feet.
................Beam - 128 feet.
................Draught - 24 feet.

Main Machinery: Parsons geared turbines providing 40,000 shp, 4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers and 2 shafts.

Maximum Speed: 25 knots.

Maximum Range: 12,000 miles at 14 knots.
.......................6200 miles at 23 knots.

Complement: 1110 (including air group).

Radar: Not Known.

Weapons: Not Known.

Comments: Hercules was the fifth ship in a series of six Majestic Class aircraft carriers (Majestic, Terrible, Magnificent, Powerful, Hercules and Leviathan) built for the Royal Navy during the World War II. A class of quick-build carriers, they were intended to challenge German and Japanese navies around the world. Ironically none of them ever served in the Royal Navy. The war ended and work on all six vessels were stopped. Two each were bought by the Canadian and the Australian navies. The fifth, the Hercules, was bought by the Indian Navy and renamed the Vikrant. The sixth, named the Leviathan, was scrapped. Built by Vickers Armstrong in Newcastle, she was laid down on 12 October 1943 and launched on 22 September 1945.

Work on the vessel was suspended in May 1946 when almost 75% of the vessel was fitted out. The Hercules was laid up for 10 years - kept in a state of preservation by the British Admiralty - before being purchased by the Indian Navy in January 1957. The Hercules underwent a four year refit at the Harland & Wolff Yard in Belfast, Ireland. She was completed along similar lines to the HMCS Bonaventure (the ex-Powerful), another Majestic Class light aircraft carrier, with an angled deck, steam catapult and landing mirrors which were all Post-WWII developments for operating jet aircraft. The carrier was formally commissioned into the Indian Navy as INS Vikrant on 04 March 1961 at Belfast by the then Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vijayalakshmi Pandit.

Captain Pritam Singh was the first commanding officer of the Vikrant. The carrier had her initial trials in the waters around the UK. The trials were followed by a six-week work-up programme which was carried out in the Mediterranean Sea. The main aim of the work-up which, concluded in early October 1961, was to test the carrier's all-round efficiency as a fully operational unit. On 18 May 1961, the landing and arresting of the first jet aircraft on board took place. The honour of performing this feat went to Lieutenant (later Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff) R H Tahiliani. The carrier formally joined the Indian Naval fleet at Bombay on 03 November 1961, where it was received at Ballard Pier by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other high-ranking dignitaries.

Till the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the Vikrant had rarely fired a gun in anger. During the Indo-China conflict in 1962, there was talk of sending the Vikrant-based Seahawk jet aircraft to the north to operate from airfields in Assam. A squadron was in fact developed for a few weeks, however political decisions deemed otherwise. During 1965, the Vikrant found itself under refit in the dry dock, though the Pakistanis, in the heat of battle, claimed that they had sunk it. The Sea Hawks were sent to Jamnagar and just as they were being primed for a night raid on Karachi, they were recalled for the defence of Bombay. However, the Vikrant's finest hour came in December 1971 when it played a pivotal role in the Liberation of Bangladesh in spite of a crack in its boiler.

Taking into account the threats and the strategic requirements, the Vikrant was assigned to the eastern theatre in the Bay of Bengal in 1971. She joined the newly created Eastern Fleet with Rear Admiral S H Sharma flying his flag on the ship. The Indian Navy did its part to fool the enemy, transmitting confusing radio signals. Though Vikrant was anchored in the Andamans, an Indian destroyer off Visakhaptnam sent signals that there was a ship in the area carrying 200 tonnes of meat, which only an aircraft carrier could store. She was considered such a prized catch by the Pakistan Navy that they sent their submarine, the Ghazi, all the way to the Bay of Bengal to drop mines outside Visakhapatnam harbour and sink the aircraft carrier off the harbour. The Pakistani submarine Ghazi blew up on 04 December 1971, after a depth charge attack by INS Rajput off the harbour entrance.

After the sinking of the Ghazi, the Vikrant then cordoned off and every port in the erstwhile East Pakistan -- Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, and Khulna -- was pounded by the Sea Hawks based on the Vikrant. Such was the impact of the air attack from Sea Hawks, that the Pakistani Naval commander in the then East Pakistan remarked, "Indian naval aircraft were hitting us day and night. We could not run." On one occasion, with aircraft airborne and no wind conditions, the ship had to take a chance with her cracked boilers to land the returning flights. This was easily the carrier's best of the finest hour. Such was the performance of the ship in the liberation of Bangladesh that it earned two Maha Vir Chakras and 12 Vir Chakras.

Everyone loves a hero. The Vikrant received a tumultuous welcome when she returned to Madras. The civil administration led by then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran, organised a special meal for the entire crew of 1100, served on banana leaves, on the jetty. That the ship was the darling of Madras and was adopted by the city goes without saying. When it came to showing the flag, there has been no ship like the Vikrant. Once, when the carrier was berthed at Bandar Abbas, the Shah of Iran flew the officers to Teheran for a special concert. In West Asia, where the only aircraft carrier people had seen were from the United States, they were surprised to see that an Asian navy could also fight a three-dimensional war.

About four decades is long time for a carrier and the last years were not trouble free for the Vikrant. The carrier was troubled by structural and mechanical problems. Yet the ship had one more achievement, when she received the Navy's first Sea Harrier VSTOL jump jet on board. She underwent a refit from 1979-82 to handle Sea Harriers off her flight deck. This however meant the end of carrier flying for the Alizes. The Vikrant was decommissioned on 31 January 1997 after 36 glorious years of service in the Indian Navy. She steamed 499,066 nautical miles, the equivalent of 15 times around the world. The carrier is currently subject to a campaign to preserve her for posterity - the only wartime constructed British aircraft carrier to be under possible preservation.

INS Jyothi

INS Jyoti lies docked next to INS Mysore at the Yokosuka naval base in Japan. Circa April 2007. Image © Ashok SINS Jyoti lies docked at the Yokosuka naval base in Japan. Circa April 2007. Image © Ashok SINS Jyoti A58. Image © Indian NavyINS Jyoti provides replenishment on the high seas, to INS Mumbai and another vessel which cannot be seen in the image. Image © Indian Navy via Kapil ChandniA black & white shot of INS Jyoti, taken from the bow. Image © M. Fabre

Vessel Type: Replenishment Tanker.

Name & Pennant Number with commission date:
INS Jyoti A58 (20 July 1996)

Displacement: 35,900 tons full load.

Dimensions: Length; 178 meters.
.................Beam; 25 meters.
.................Draught; Not Known.

Main Machinery: Two boilers, one steam turbine with 10,948 hp and 1 shaft.

Maximum Speed: 15 knots.

Maximum Range: 12,000 miles at 15 knots.

Complement: 92 (incl. 16 officers).

Cargo Capacity: 25,040 tons diesel.

Radar: Navigation; Two Decca 1226 radars at I-band frequency.

Weapons: Guns may be fitted in due course.

Helicopters: Platform for one medium helicopter.

Comments: This was the third of the Komandarm Fedko Class of merchant tankers, modified for naval use for the IN and acquired in 1995. The ship was laid down in September 1993. Based in Bombay where it arrived in November 1996. The vessel may be fitted with armament in due course. There are two replenishment positions on each side, and stern refuelling is an option. A similar ship was sold to China and two others are in commercial service. To be fitted with close-in weapon systems - guns and missiles - for self-defence.


Judging by the rope at the end, INS Gaj appears to be pulling a vessel out to sea. Image © Indian Navy

Vessel Type: Ocean Tug.

Name & Pennant Number with commission dates:
INS Gaj ??; (10 October 2002).

Displacement: 560 tons full load.

Dimensions: Length - 34 metres.
.................LPD* - 32.5 metres.
.................Beam - 10 metres.
.................Draft - 2.75 metres.
.................Hull Depth - 4 metres.
*Length Between Perpendiculars

Maximum Speed: 12 knots.

Maximum Range: Not Known.

Complement: 22 sailors including 1 officer.

Weapons: Not Known.

Comments: Built by Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL). The vessel has remarkable manoeuvrability and capability to tow vessels stranded on the high seas or those in distress to safe passage in the harbour. It an also be deployed as a floating fire tender. The vessel is equipped with some of the latest facilities including 1,060 KW Wartsila diesel engines, Voith Schneider propellers and a six-tonne hydraulic deck crane. It can move in any direction irrespective of the positioning of its head and turn 360 degrees on spot.

INS Krishna

Image © Mrityunjoy Mazumdar

Image © Mrityunjoy Mazumdar

A shot of INS Krishna, taken from above. Image © Warships International Fleet Review, Winter '99 Issue


Vessel Type: Training Ship.

Name & Pennant Number with commission date:
INS Krishna F46 (22 August 1995)

Displacement: 2960 tons full load.

Main Machinery: Two boilers with 550 psi, two turbines with 30,000 hp and two shafts.

Maximum Speed: 28 knots.

Maximum Range: 4000 at 15 knots

Complement: 260 (incl. 19 officers).

Weapons: Two Oerlikon 20mm guns.
..............Two Bofors 40mm guns (aft of funnel).

Radars: Air/Surface; One Marconi Type 968 radar at D/E-band frequency.
...........Navigation; One Kevin Hughes Type 1006 radar at I-band frequency.

Helicopters: Platform for one HAL Chetak.

Comments: Acquired for training purposes to supplement INS Tir. The vessel was originally commissioned in the Royal Navy on 02 December 1968 as HMS Andromeda F57. The Indian Navy acquired the vessel from the United Kingdom in April 1995 having paid off in June 1993 to an extended state of readiness. It was re-commissioned into the Indian Navy after being refitted by DML, Davenport in the United Kingdom. The armament has been reduced to the minimum for the training role. Based at Kochi.