Good Old Indian Jugaad Makes Viraat Ageless, Could Keep Going For 10 More Years

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

23 thoughts on “Good Old Indian Jugaad Makes Viraat Ageless, Could Keep Going For 10 More Years”

  1. Bottom line is always Jets. Anyway its good to know she can do more 10 years. Once the those two carriers arrives turn this Grand Lady into LHD. She will worth one more refit and retrofit.

  2. oh!!!!at last got hear some good news…was damn upset after hearing about CAG report,DHRUV etc….expecting some more good news about LCA PV5,Arihanth etc

  3. If there are no harriers to fly off the deck, I am sure she can be used as a helicopter carrier or fulfill a role similar to the Jalashwa.

  4. Must say surprised that a former british carrier of the fifties is still operational now…Also great to know that india is able to maintain it really well…
    Btw is there any news on the IAC vikrant…any update on that?Is it on track?

  5. This article has pointed out something that has been an chronic problem for a long time, which is, the lack of forward Strategic Planning. At the time of purchase of the Viraat in 1987, the expected operational lifecycle was supposed to be 7 years. Why then, did we only start searching for a 2nd hand carrier to replace the Viraat only in the beginning of 2000. Also, how did we let the cost escalations of the refurbishing work slip past the August 15th 2008 deadline.

    We have to start looking for replacements during the mid-life cycle of a program in order to stay battle ready. This goes for the 126 MMCRA deal, MBF tanks, many of which are supposed to replace ageing equipment.

    Also glaring is the fact that was rightly pointed out, with the extension of the lifecycle of Viraat to 2019, is may not have any sea harriers to fly off it's deck due to the age/attrition numbers of the same. Where as the recently delivery MIG-29K fighters do not have the INS Vikramaditya to fly off from, for say the next 3-4 years. Absolutely no forward Strategic Planning.

    With regards to the Viraat getting older with age. Hats off to the builder (Vickers-Armstrong). Launched in 1953 and still going strong says alot about the quality of production at that time. She did see conflict in the 80's during the Falkland War as HMS Hermes and has been the flagship of the INS till date.

    I can only praise this ship, may you sail the seas and live on in our memories forever.

    P.s.: Any updates on where we are with the INS Vikramaditya progress status. I want to see the MIG-29K's where the belong, on a great aircraft carrier!!!

  6. why everything that happens in India, only can be explained as magic…is it something built in us…whenever we explain something…

    or everything we do is mostly need not to be explained or unexplainable to be only called magic or Jugaad…

    I really don't trust anything…but ya i hope…

  7. Truely brilliant work! But lets hope the 2 new carriers come on time, if not earlier than expected.

    GO!!! Indian Navy!!

  8. Jabtak usko barbaad na kardein ye rukne wale nahi,anyways we need an state of the art tech aircraft carrier,no shit is da real deal,do something to so save it n not to blow it up.

  9. India makes a mistake bying that old Russian heep of crap. You should by one of the two new carriers that Britain is building. The can not afford both of them anyway.
    Then India would have its needs fulfilled for the next 40 years.

  10. Cost of UK carrier will be 6 to 7 billion$. India can't afford such expensive carriers. Maybe we can partner with UK for building the 3rd AC carrier which has similar displacement as UK carriers.

  11. @Deloitte

    These old ships were made to withstand the test of time and battle unlike current flimsy delicate modern vessels. I can bet it will be going strong even after 100 years.

  12. Ultimate Ratshaker

    When she runs out of harriers, we can launch ratshakers off the deck. Atleast the number of rats will decrease. We can start with Rahul or Shiv (from BR).

    Seriously.. its good news but its better this is retired soon enough. Maintaining old equipment is always more expensive than newer ones, so the earlier she is retired the better. But we need to get the other carriers up and running.

    @Deloitte: brilliant post. The lack of planning ahead is what has crippled our military all along. It is seen on all 3 forces. But I guess we have to blame babustan equally since they have to sanction everything in the end.

  13. More than Indian jugaad its British engineering thats shining here. Viraat and other ships of her era were quite overbuilt. Some of the plates on Viraat are 6 inches thick. Modern ships are not made to last that long.

  14. @anon@8:40am,
    Overbuilt means high factor of safety. When you grasp engineering you are capable of building precisely to the requirement with lower safety factor.
    Higher the factor of Safety, the lower your grip of engineering is and higher the cost. Given that it was built in 50s and engineering was not as evolved as today the overengineering can be explained away.
    I agree that here the overengineering could be working to our advantage.

  15. Ultimate RATshagger

    @ Rahul
    Nah, I've never been a member, never will be. I used to lurk there before but not anymore. I saw the way their idiotic members criticised anyone who disagreed with the older members. I've seen the way they degrade journalists and other people because they either made mistakes in their reporting or their views were different. Just do a google search for "DDM" and you'll see lots of hits on the bharat-RATshak site.

    I'm a proud indian, I have respect for the journalists who do their work. Yes they get it wrong sometimes. Yes, in the hurry of being the first to report something, they can make major mistakes. But that doesnt mean they are idiots as the rats portray them. Even major US channels got it wrong and declared Al-Gore president in 2000 because they hurriedly reporter results. Its a gamble they took and lost. That doesnt mean they are morons.

    The only morons and idiots are in bharat-ratshagger forum. Look at the list of people they have banned. Everyone disagreed with their views.

    I know you are a ratshagger. I urge you to tell your fellow rats to stop degrading journalists on their forum.

  16. If the aircraft can stay till 2020, then it's possible that it can be used as an helicopter carrier with Anti-sub helis and attack helicopters of the LCH type.

  17. Does this mean the Navy(and penny-pinchinf MoD) would reconsider the proposal to buy the Royal Navy's mothballed Sea Harriers? This was mooted a few years ago but shelved because back then the Navy was expecting to retire the Viraat by 2010. Now our Sea Harriers are at the end of their operating life and becoming a safety hazard to pilots; the newer British planes will last for another 10 years at least and will be cheap since the Royal Navy no longer needs(i.e. can't afford to operate) them.

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