INS Vikrant was the first aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. She was bought from the British Navy in 1957 and was delivered in 1970. During the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, she played a critical role. Her aircrafts bombed several cities in Bangladesh. We will discuss all these in this article.
INS Vikrant was among the Majestic class carriers of the Royal Navy (British Navy) during World war II. Then she was known as HMS Hercules. Her hull was laid down in 1942 but her construction was not completed even when Japan surrendered. Her hull was laid up and preserved since she was surplus to the Royal Navy’s peacetime requirement. Britain sold these surplus carriers to the commonwealth nations. Many countries ordered these carriers including Canada, Australia and India.
India purchased Hercules in 1957. She was modified according to Indian Navy’s requirements. These modifications included an angled deck, more powerful aircraft lifts, a steam catapult, modified island and much more.
HMS Hercules was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 4th March, 1961 where she was re designated as INS Vikrant with pennant number R11.
INS Vikrant was 210 meters long and 39 meters wide, displacing 19000 tons under full load. She was powered by two Parsons geared steam turbines with three boilers which could propel her at maximum 25 knots and had a range of 12000 nautical miles ( roughly 22,000 km). She has a total complement of 1,110 including officers and sailors.
During the 1971 war, Hawker Sea hawk remained INS Vikrant’s primary fighter aircraft. She also carried Breguet Alizé Br.1050 anti-submarine aircraft along with Sea King Mk 42B helicopters. She has equipped with a catapult to launch these aircraft.
1971 Bangladesh liberation war
during the 1965 war Vikrant was sitting in Bombay Harbour and did not go out to sea. If the same thing happened in 1971, Vikrant would be called a white elephant and naval aviation would be written off. Vikrant had to be seen being operational even if we didn’t fly any aircraft.Captain Gulab Mohanlal Hiranandani
Although INS Vikrant was deployed in operation Vijay in which Goa was annexed and liberated from Portuguese rule, but did not saw action. Even in 1965 war, Vikrant was in dry docks of Mumbai. Though in 1965 war the entire Navy did not operate in its full potential.
” And if war comes again, I assure you that we shall carry it right into the enemy’s biggest ports like Karachi. I know the harbour quite well, for I started my career there. And you have my word that given the opportunity, the Indian Navy will make the world’s biggest bonfire of it”Admiral SM Nanda ( then vice admiral) to blitz in 1969.
The three daphne class submarines of the Pakistan navy poses a serious threat to INS Vikrant. Thus Admiral S.M. Nanda who was now chief of naval staff decided to operate her with the eastern fleet and keep her out of the range of Pakistani submarine. However, PNS Ghazi still had the range to strike Vikrant in the bay of Bengal.
This concern came to be true when PNS ghazi’s wreck was discovered near the coast of Visakhapatnam on 4th December. Though sinking of Ghazi is a mystery which we will discuss in another article.
INS Vikrant along with two leopard class frigates, a Petya corvette and a foxtrot class submarine formed the eastern fleet.
At the daybreak of 4th December, the sea hawks of Vikrant struck Chittagong and cox Bazar harbours sinking all the ships present there.
Strikes continued till 10th December on Khulna and port of Mongla in East Pakistan. Vikrant’s seahawks also supplemented the naval blockade of East Pakistan. On 14th December a final blow was delivered on the barracks in Chittagong and in Cox Bazar.
After successfully making a bonfire of cox Bazar and Chittagong Vikrant triumphantly sailed to Paradip port for refuelling. By then East Pakistan had surrendered, making a record of humiliation. A new Nation was born which was named “Bangladesh”. INS Vikrant’s crew earned two Mahavir Chakra and 12 Vir chakra for their valour. The skipper of Vikrant Vice-Admiral Swaraj Prakash was one of the Mahavir Chakra awardees
INS Vikrant’s role in the 1971 war was crucial and perhaps proved to be a turning point in the war. INS Vikrant’s name has been written in golden letters in the history of the Indian Navy. Though now decommissioned and scrapped her legacy will continue to live on.