INS Vikrant

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INS Vikrant (R11) (Marathi: विक्रांत, Hindi: विक्रान्‍त) (formerly HMS Hercules (R49))[1] was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy.

Her keel was laid down on 12 November 1943 by Vickers-Armstrong [2] on the Tyne and she was launched on 22 September 1945.



Completion work was carried out in Belfast but construction was suspended after the end of World War II and she was laid up for possible future use. Her pennant was changed from R49 to R11.

In January 1957 she was sold to India, and construction was completed at Harland and Wolff [3] with an extensively modernized design, including an angled deck with steam catapults, a modified island, and many other improvements.

The Indian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, commissioned her as INS Vikrant on 4 March 1961 while she was still at Belfast, Northern Ireland. The name Vikrant was taken from Sanskrit vikrānta meaning "stepped beyond", i.e. "courageous", "victorious". Her pennant was once again R11 in the Indian Navy. Captain Pritam Singh was the first commanding officer of the carrier.[4] She formally joined the Indian fleet at Bombay on 3 November 1961, when she was received at Ballard Pier by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other high-ranking dignitaries.

The Vikrant's initial air wing consisted of British Hawker Sea Hawk fighter-bombers and a French Alize anti-submarine aircraft. On 18 May 1961 the first jet landed on board, piloted by Lieutenant (later Admiral) R H Tahiliani.

In 1965, Pakistan claimed that it had sunk the Vikrant.[5] At the time, however, the ship was under refit in dry dock.

In June 1970, the Vikrant was immobilized at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai, due to a crack in a water drum of one of the boilers. In March 1971 she was put through trials without use of the damaged boiler by routing steam from the forward machinery to the steam catapult. This enabled her to launch both the Sea Hawks as well as the Breguet Alizé.[6] These modifications turned out to be valuable, enabling the Vikrant to enter combat despite the cracked boiler against East Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.[7][8] Stationed off the Andaman & Nicobar islands along with Indian naval ships, INS Bramhaputra and INS Beas, the Vikrant redeployed towards Chittagong[9] at the outbreak of hostilities. On the morning of 4 December 1971, the eight Sea Hawk aircraft on the Vikrant launched an air raid on Cox's Bazaar from 60 nm (nautical miles) away. That evening, the air group struck Chittagong Harbor. Future strikes targeted Khulna and Mongla. A PTI message is supposed to have read, "Chittagong harbour ablaze as ships and aircraft of the Eastern Naval Fleet bombed and rocketed. Not a single vessel can be put to sea from Chittagong." Air strikes continued until 10 December 1971.

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