Navy to decommission INS Virat by 2018

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New Delhi, Jan 19 (PTI) Set to induct two aircraftcarriers by the middle of the decade, the Indian Navy isplanning to decommission its lone warship capable of operatingfighter jets-- INS Virat, in another seven years.

"We are expecting the Russian-built INS Vikramadityaand the indigenous Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) by 2017.

After receiving the two warships, we will go ahead with thedecommissioning of INS Virat," a senior Navy official saidhere.

He added that though after the upgrades, INS Viratwould be available for use till 2018, it would bedecommissioned after the two other ships arrive.

INS Virat has been in service for the last 50 yearsand has undergone a number of upgrades to allow the Navy tooperate at least one carrier.

At present, the USD 2.33 billion INS Vikramaditya isbeing refurbished in Russia and is expected to join the Navyby the end of 2013.

"The IAC is expected to be launched by the end of thisyear and we hope that it will take another five to six yearsto join operational service," officials said.

The Indian Navy plans to deploy a carrier on each ofits two seaboards to protect and safeguard its assets in itsarea of interest ranging from the Hormuz strait in west to theMalacca strait in the east.

On the follow-on ships of the IAC, the officials saidthe size of the future indigenous aircraft carriers woulddepend on the type of fighter aircraft that the Navy choosesin the near future.

At present, the Navy operates the British-origin SeaHarrier aircraft and has recently placed orders for 45 new MiG29K aircraft for operating on the INS Vikramaditya.

It is also looking to induct the naval version of theLCA, which is expected to be ready by the time the IAC joinsservice.

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