The INS Viraat is the second aircraft carrier commissioned into the navy of India. It was built in 1944 for the British Royal Navy, a Centaur-class light fleet carrier christened HMS Hermes. In 1971, the Royal Navy refitted the ship for commando duties, and then turned it into a V/STOL carrier in time for the Falklands War, when it was the centerpiece of the British task force. India purchased the carrier in 1986 as a replacement for the aging Vikrant: when the Vikrant was decommissioned in 1997, the Viraat became India's only aircraft carrier. It is now based in Mumbai.

227 m long and 49 m wide, the Viraat cruises at around 28 knots, powered by eighty thousand horsepower of steam turbines. It is outfitted with two SAM launchers, eight torpedoes, and six 30mm AA guns. 43 officers and 1,300 enlisted personnel operate the ship, its thirty Sea Harriers, and its seven Sea King helicopters.

It was refitted at Cochin in 1997 with new radar, communications, and other systems that will extend its operating life to around 2010. At that point, it will have to be replaced: the Indian Navy has been negotiating with Russia to buy one of their carriers, the Kiev-class Gorshkov, modified to accommodate modern fighters like the MiG-29. They are also planning to build their own carrier, called the Air Defense Ship.

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