HMS Hermes – Ship 10 – was built by Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow in Furness, and laid down 21 June 1944 as one of the “Centaur” class light fleet carriers. She was not launched until 16 February 1953, being laid up a further four years awaiting completion. She was finally completed on 18 November 1959.
In 1971, HMS Hermes was re-commissioned as a commando carrier, and then in the late 1970′s as an interim V/STOL carrier. After serving as the flagship of the Royal Navy’s task force during the Falklands war of 1982, she was ‘paid off’ on 12 April 1984. Stricken 1 July 1985.
The Hermes was sold to India on 19 April 1986 after a major re-fit at Devonport before transfer. The carrier, now renamed INS Viraat (R22), was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 12 May 1987. She was formally commissioned 15 February 1989.
The current air group includes 12 to 18 Sea Harriers V/STOL fighters and 7 / 8 Sea King or Kamov ‘Hormone’ ASW helicopters. In emergencies, the Viraat can operate up to 30 Harriers. INS Viraat was, at 2001, the only remaining Indian aircraft carrier.
An extensive modernisation programme for the ship began in 1999 costing Rs3 billion (US$71.4million). She underwent sea trials in December 2000 and completed the refit during 2001. She is due for retirement in 2017.