Mumbai, Sep 19 : The once majestic and imposing Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat -- now decommissioned -- started on its swansong voyage to Alang port in Gujarat, the country's biggest graveyard for all such condemned ships, officials said here on Saturday.

The erstwhile UK-built ship, in her heydays served Indian Navy by remaining at sea for 22,58 days and covered 590,000 nautical miles and 22,622 hours of flying operations in the country's service.

Towed by two other vessels for her final voyage, she will reach Alang Port in around 3 days, said a naval official.

The vessel was bought by Shri Ram Green Ship Recycling Industries Ltd., Gujarat, for Rs 38.50 crore in an auction conducted by MSTC Ltd.

Formerly known as 'HMS Hermes', she had served the British Navy for a quarter century from November 1959-April 1984 and rubbed royalty for a brief period.

It was in 1974 that Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, had flown helicopters of the 845 Naval Air Squadron aboard the 'HMS Hermes'.

Later, it was commissioned into the Indian Navy as its second aircraft carrier, 'INS Viraat' in May 1987 after extensive refurbishments and beefing up its fighting capabilities.

After decades of meritorious service, the Indian Navy finally decommissioned her in March 2017 and it was docked at the Naval Dockyard, here since.

With a crew of 1,500, she could carry a huge load of combat-ready aircrafts and helicopters; took part in the Operation Parakram in October 2001-July 2002; Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka from July 18-August 17, 1989, and had several other creditable achievements to her credit in her long maritime career.

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