INS Vikrant is one such name that stands out when a list of the Indian naval ships are recounted. Commissioned in the year 1961 as an aircraft carrier by Vijaylakshmi Pandit, the then High Commissioner, the name Vikrant stands for unassailability and bravery in Sanskrit.
Originally named as HMS Hercules, the vessel was built in the Vickers-Armstrong shipyard and launched as a part of Great Britain’s Majestic Class of vessels in the year 1945. However, even before she was brought into active operational duty, World War II came to an end and the ship was withdrawn from being used in active naval duty.Subsequently, Hercules was sold to the Indian naval force in the year 1957. For four years till its formal launch as a part of the Indian naval force, the war ship was re-modified to suit the Indian requirements in the Irish Harland and Wolff shipyard.
The aircraft fleet of the INS ship consisted of three crafts – the Sea Hawk bomber jets of Great Britain and the French anti-submarine plane Alize. Because of this limited capacitance of fighter planes, the flight carrier was regarded as a light attack air fleet carrier.
The initiation of the flight carrier in the Indian navy was not met with hearty favour all over. The Russian diplomats of that time raised queries about the Indian choice to opt for a British war ship while several senior Indian army men were sceptical of the performance of the vessel.
In the year 1961 according to reputed maritime history sources, the Pakistani navy made claims that they had destroyed the flight carrier. This was a rumour as at that time the vessel was not deployed in the active line of duty but was undergoing its regular maintenance work at the Mumbai (then Bombay) shipyard.
The true test of INS Vikrant however came during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. With seriously debilitating problems to one of her boilers, the INS ship had to function with limited speed that could have hamper that the actual potential of the vessel during the crucial time. However, these problems to the boilers notwithstanding, the aircraft vessel was successful in majorly helping the country to win the 1971 war in a thumping manner.
In the following years, the war vessel underwent major re-hauling with respect to its engines, boilers and other technical equipments. Its fleet of vessels also underwent a change with the Harriers becoming a part of its fleet and the Alize crafts becoming redundant. However towards the start of the late 21st century (in 1997), the aircraft carrier because of its performance incapacity was withdrawn from active service duty.