That’s right. Last week, two big events impacted the carrier world. The Indian Navy’s INS Viraat (R22) light carrier was formally decommissioned and the US Navy’s USS Independence (CV-62) supercarrier began its journey to the breaker’s yard.
So the first event. On 6th March 2017, the Indian Navy decommissioned INS Viraat, former Royal Navy Colossus-class light carrier HMS Hermes (R11). Age and her cost of maintenance prompted the Indian Defence Ministry to retire Viraat three years early – her expected end of service life was 2020. Future INS Vikrant will replace her role in the fleet. It is unclear at this time if she will be preserved. A previous attempt at making her a museum a few years ago apparently fell through. Period to her decommissioning, Viraat was the oldest operational aircraft carrier. Personally, I will remember the ship chiefly as Hermes, since she was famous for being one of those Cold War-era ‘commando carriers’ (basically a Landing Platform Helicopter or LPH) and serving in the Falklands War.
Now the second event. USS Independence (CV-62), Forrestal-class, was decommissioned almost 20 years ago (30th September 1998) and now it is time for her tow to Texas for scrapping. She began this journey on the 11th March 2017, which is 25,750 kilometres from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to a breaker’s yard in Brownsville. Being a Forrestal-class member, she was among the World’s first supercarriers in service. From 1959 until decommissioning. She served with distinction in Vietnam and the rest of the Cold War. After the decommissioning, she remained mothballed for five and a half years before finally being struck on 8th March 2004. During this time, Independence was said to have been heavily stripped to support active supercarriers. The state of the ship by the end of this meant she was not in good enough condition to be preserved.
As always, I hate to see carriers go. I hope that INS Viraat can be preserved, since she could be the last World War II-era British carrier left that can be preserved. As for USS Independence, I understand she is not in safe condition for preservation as a museum/memorial. It does suck that no Forrestal-class supercarrier can be preserved now, but they were all pushed hard during their years of service. I am grateful that they did exist and left their mark on history!
See you around Viraat and Independence, noble Warriors of the Sea!