INS Viraat on its final sail

New Delhi: India's aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which will soon be developed into an adventure tourism centre with rooms to stay in, has set sail on its farewell journey as it prepares to get decommissioned.

The world's oldest operational aircraft carrier todayreached Paradip port, Odisha for the very first time. It hosted NCC cadets on board.

The ship will now move to Kakinada Port and from there to Chennai and finally Mumbai.

"The operational cycle of the ship ends in Mumbai," Navy sources said.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu had recently said there is a proposal by the Defence ministry to develop the aircraft carrier as a tourist centre.

Naidu said a joint venture will be set up by Andhra Pradesh government, Indian Navy and a private organisation to take up the tourism-related activities on the warship, which has been in service for almost six decades.

These activities would include yachting, sea sports, sailing, gliding and cruising, he said, adding the aircraftcarrier's 1,500 rooms can be used to house tourists.

The ship had first served the British Navy for over 30 years before being bought by India. It was inducted into the Indian Navy in 1987 after undergoing extensive refits.

Viraat, which also saw action in the Falklands War and was India's sole carrier for over a decade, attended the International Fleet Review at Visakhapatnam last week.

The Navy has learnt its lesson well after India's first carrier Vikrant, which was turned into a maritime museum post-retirement in 1997, was broken up after its upkeep became very expensive.

The move had led to widespread condemnation and many veterans and military historians had expressed their concern. It can carry up to 26 fighter aircraft and helicopters, including 16 Sea Harriers and helicopters such as Sea Kings, and Chetaks.

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