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Google Earth Plug-in: INS Vikrant

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The INS Vikrant (Hindi: विक्रान्‍त (formerly the HMS Hercules (R49)) was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy. Her keel was laid down November 12, 1943 by Vickers-Armstrong was launched on September 22, 1945. Construction was suspended after World War II and she was laid up for possible future use. In January 1957 she was sold to India, and construction was completed at Harland and Wolff 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 March 4,1961 while she was still at Belfast, Northern Ireland. The name Vikrant was taken from Sanskrit vikrānta = "stepped beyond", i.e. "courageous", "victorious". Captain Pritam Singh was the first commanding officer of the carrier. She formally joined the Indian fleet at Bombay on November 3, 1961, when she was received at Ballard Pier by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other high-ranking dignitaries.

The Vikrant's initial airwing consisted of British Hawker Sea Hawk fighter-bombers and a French Alize anti-submarine aircraft. On May 18, 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. At the time, however, the ship was under refit in dry dock.

Despite a crack in a boiler, she saw real combat against Pakistan in the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. She was considered important enough by the Pakistan Navy that they sent the submarine Ghazi all the way to the Bay of Bengal to mine the Visakhapatnam harbor in an unsuccessful attempt to sink the Vikrant; the Ghazi itself falling prey to INS Rajput. The Vikrant played an instrumental role in sinking several Pakistani patrol boats and other naval vessels. During the war the crew of Vikrant earned two Mahavir Chakras and 12 Vir Chakras.

Vikrant was given an extensive refit, including new engines and modernization between 1979 and January 3,1982. Between December 1982 and February 1983 she was refitted again to enable her to operate Sea Harriers. After the retirement of the Breguet Alizť from carrier service in 1989, she received a 'ski jump' for more efficient use of her Sea Harriers.

Vikrant was India's only carrier for over 20 years, but by the early 1990s she was effectively out of service because of her poor condition. Even following major overhauls she was rarely put to sea. She was formally decommissioned January 31, 1997 and is preserved as a museum at Mumbai.

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