Tag Archives: Falkland islands

45,000 tons of Courageous

The Indian Navy, which officially dates back to the 1947 split with the British Empire and carries a curious mix of traditions from the Royal Navy and doctrine from the Soviets/Russians, saw an important milestone last week when INS Vikrant (R11), whose name roughly translates to “Courageous” took to the sea for builder’s trials, celebrating 60 continuous years of carrier operations.

The country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier and the largest warship to be built in the country, Vikrant is roughly the size of an American LHA but importantly uses a STOBAR aircraft launching system with a ski-jump and angled flight deck and can operate a mix of 40 MiG-29Ks and ASW helicopters.

Nice to see the old Sea King still around

She also has a serious self-defense armament (another ode to Russian carrier ops) including 64 Barak 8 missiles, four OTO 76mm guns, and four Russian AK-630 CIWS mounts. Powered by a quartet of GE LM2500 turbines, which are standard on just about every American destroyer and cruiser, she has an eclectic mix of Italian and Israeli electronics.

60 Years of Indian Carriers

India has been in the carrier game since 1961, when the original INS Vikrant, formerly the British light carrier HMS Hercules, was commissioned. Vikrant was later augmented in 1987 by the Centaur-class carrier INS Viraat (ex-HMS Hermes), which served for 30 years.

Vikrant in 1984 after many years of hard service. You can note the Sea Harriers, Sea King helicopters, Sea Hawks, and Alize aircraft on deck

Doing the math, India was a single-carrier operator for 26 years, then operated two flattops side-by-side for a decade before downsizing between 1997 and 2012. With the commissioning of the completely rebuilt INS Vikramaditya (ex- Russian carrier Baku/Admiral Gorshkov), the country then again operated a two-carrier fleet for five years. 

INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya in 2013. At the time, India had arguably the second-highest amount of operational naval tonnage in the world behind the U.S.

Since 2017, when Hermes/Viraat was finally retired, they have been back down to a single carrier but that will change once Vikrant officially joins the fleet next year.

Also, the “big deck” Vikramaditya enabled the Indians to retire their ancient early model Sea Harriers and go with MiG-29 carrier variants, of which they have some 45 in operation. Sure, they are not as capable of a carrier-based fighter as the F-18E or F-35B, but they are still a step up from Harriers.

Plus, keep in mind that the very professional Indians have probably the best track record in using MiGs in combat in the world. Just ask Pakistan. 

The Indian Navy has 45 MiG-29KUB carrier-based multirole fighters and is looking to acquire 57 more, with the possibility of building them locally. There is also talk of fielding variants of the F/A18E or the French Rafale instead.

Sailing on Hermes for the Falklands

Timely now due to the fact that, as this is written, the famous old WWII-era HMS Hermes (95) is being slowly cut to pieces in the shallows of Alang, is the below video that was just posted online.

This great 24-minute color film story, from the AP Archives, was filed 21 May 1982 as the British Operation Corporate Task Force was heading to liberate the Falklands.

It starts out with some interesting shots of the force as a whole as it pulled out of Portsmouth, then soon switches to life on the Hermes. The film crew goes from her flight deck where Harriers are buzzing around working up with some live-fire exercises while underway, to the hangar deck and down to engineering, talking to assorted ratings including a 16-year-old snipe who is bummed that his planned 10-day libo was canceled to go fight the Argies.

One interesting part, at the 17:17 mark, shows Hermes training a 100 man group, drawn from the crew, as an internal security force, equipped with SLRs and other small arms. The thought at the time, from the officer over the training, was that the volunteers could be utilized as a landing force ashore if needed, ready to guard ammo dumps, prisoner control, etc. Even with the prospect of possible ground combat on the horizon, three times the amount of tars needed for the force volunteered. To put that into perspective, keep in mind that the light carrier only had a 500– 2,100-man crew.

Well, that’s a wrap for Hermes

Laid down at Vickers late during WWII, the Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12) languished on the builder’s ways and was only completed post-Suez, joining the Royal Navy in 1959. Converted to a “commando carrier” then made a default Harrier carrier, she spearheaded the British operation to liberate the Falklands in 1982– an operation that probably could not be pulled off without the aging flattop.

Moving to India, she continued to serve as the INS Viraat (R22) for another 31 years, only retiring in 2017 after 58 years of service, making her arguably the longest-serving carrier in naval history. For reference, USS Enterprise (CVN-65) “only” served 56 years and the smaller USS Lexington (CV-16), the famed Blue Ghost, served 48. Similarly, HMS/HMAS Vengeance/NAeL Minas Gerais tied Enterprise at 56– although it was under three different flags– before she was towed off to the shipbreaking yards at Alang.

Speaking of Alang, the final effort to save Hermes/Viraat is disbanding, as it has been confirmed the dismantling of the old girl there is too far advanced to try to make a go of it.

She deserved better.

All over for the longest-serving aircraft carrier

As we have talked about previously, the WWII vintage Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12) spent 28 years in the Royal Navy– including as flagship of the Falklands task force– then went on to give the Indian Navy another 31 years of hard service as INS Viraat (R22) before she was retired in 2017. For reference, she was laid down 21 June 1944, just two weeks after D-Day.

As far as I can tell, Hermes/Viraat was the longest-serving aircraft carrier under any flag, surpassing USS Lexington (CV-16/AVT-16) which clocked in for 48 years in a row– although the last couple of decades of that were as a training ship out of Pensacola– and USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which was a hard charger for 51 years. USS Nimitz (CVN-68) has been with the fleet since 1975 by comparison, “just” 45 years.

While the Indians had tossed around the idea of making Viraat a museum in Mumbai, no cash could be spared and she went to the auction block in 2019 with no bidders. Likewise, a prospect for the old warrior to return back home to the UK where veterans groups aimed to preserve her there also fell through.

She is set to arrive at Alang Ship Breaking yard for demolition in the first week of September.

Boris to save HMS Hermes?

As we have covered in the past few weeks, the former WWII vintage Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12), late of the Indian Navy, recently went up for auction and received zero bids. The former Falklands War conflict flagship, which had her hull laid in 1944, is the last of her kind and gave 59 hard years to the Admiralties of London and New Delhi, and it would be a shame to send her to the breakers.

Now, according to the UK’s Sunday Express, PM Boris Johnson may have reached out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an attempt to bring the ship home.

Downing Street has declined to comment on whether Mr Johnson raised the issue in the conversation which is mostly kept private.

But Mr Campbell Bannerman, who has helped lead the campaign along with Falklands veteran Andy Trish, said: “We believe Boris intervened but haven’t been able to have it confirmed.

“It is good news though that for whatever reason HMS Hermes can still be saved.

“We can raise more money from private backers than the Indian government would receive for turning it into scrap. It is very important that we keep some of our naval heritage and history for future generations to see.”

We will keep you posted.

Hermes gets no bidders

View looking aft down HMS HERMES’ flight deck as she sails from Portsmouth for the South Atlantic. Five Sea Harriers of No 800 Squadron Fleet Air Arm are visible on the crowded flight deck in front of a mass of Sea Kings. At the time of sailing, the crew had not had time to organize the stowing of aircraft or supplies. IWM (FKD 674)

As we have talked about previously, the WWII vintage Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12) spent 28 years in the Royal Navy– including as flagship of the Falklands task force– then went on to give the Indian Navy another 31 years of hard service as INS Viraat (R22) before she was retired in 2017.

As far as I can tell, she was the longest-serving aircraft carrier under any flag, surpassing USS Lexington (CV-16/AVT-16) which clocked in for 48 years in a row– although the last couple of decades of that were as a training ship out of Pensacola– and USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which was a hard charger for 51 years.

While the Indians had tossed around the idea of making Viraat a museum in Mumbai, no cash could be spared and she went to the auction block this week– with no bidders.

She is expected to be relisted, and maybe the Indian government will allow groups outside of the country to place a bid, a prospect that could see her return back home to the UK where veterans groups aim to preserve her there.

We’ll keep you updated.

Hermes everlasting no more

Laid down at Vickers late during WWII, the Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12) languished on the builder’s ways and was only completed post-Suez, joining the Royal Navy in 1959.

Centaur-class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (R12) bouncing around the North Atlantic with her bow mostly out of the water in 1977.

However, she more than earned her stripes as the elderly flagship of the British task force sent to reclaim the Falklands in 1982 before going on to serve in the Indian Navy as INS Viraat (R22) for another impressive 31 years, only retiring in 2017 after 58 years of service. Sadly, it seems like she is bound for the breakers.

As noted by the HMS Hermes/INS Viraat Museum Ship Appeal, the group planning to bring the historic carrier back home to England:

The Indian Government has put INS Viraat/HMS Hermes up for sale for scrap in an e-auction on the 17th Dec 2019.

We have been attempting to delay the auction in order to put forward a satisfactory bid from the UK however there are clauses in the sale that would need the Indian Government to make some serious changes to the schedule which now appear very unlikely.

Viraat is not for sale outside of India and the vessel is not to be towed out of Indian waters for any reason. The successful (Indian) bidder has to undertake to remove the vessel from her current berthing in Mumbai within 30 days of a successful purchase.

I am really sorry for this news. We are currently campaigning against the schedule but are unlikely to win.

Hermes, Clamagore, and Newcastle to be no more

Lots of changes among the world’s floating museum ships and those otherwise long in the tooth this week.

Hermes/Viraat

Centaur-class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (R12) bouncing around the North Atlantic with her bow mostly out of the water, 1977.

Laid down at Vickers-Armstrong on 21 June 1944, two weeks after the Allies stormed ashore at D-Day, as HMS Elephant, the RN carrier HMS Hermes only joined the fleet on 18 November 1959 (after 15 years at the builders) with a much-altered plan that included an angled flight deck to allow the operation of jet-powered aircraft at sea. After legendary Cold War service and a pivotal part in the Falklands War in 1982, she was sold to India in 1987 and took the name INS Viraat (R22) and, homeported in Mumbai, served the Indian Navy for three more decades, undergoing a further five refits while in Indian service.

The last British-built ship serving the Indian Navy, Viraat was the star attraction at the International Fleet Review held in Visakhapatnam in February 2016. Her last Sea Harrier, (White Tigers in Indian service), flew from her deck on May 6, of that year and was given a formal farewell at INS Hansa, in Goa two days later. She was to be preserved as a floating museum, commemorating an amazing career.

Fast forward three years and this is not to be. Deli announced this week that she will soon be scrapped.

Clamagore

In formation on 18 April 1966. The boats seen are: USS BLENNY (SS-324), CLAMAGORE (SS-343), COBBLER (SS-344), and CORPORAL (SS-346)

Subron-21’s GUPPY IIIs in formation on 18 April 1966. The boats seen are: USS BLENNY (SS-324), CLAMAGORE (SS-343), COBBLER (SS-344), and CORPORAL (SS-346)

The submarine USS Clamagore (SS-343), a Balao-class 311-foot “fleet boat” of the type that crushed the Japanese merchant fleet during WWII, commissioned on 28 June 1945– just narrowly too late for the war. However, her Naval service was rich, being converted to a GUPPY II snorkel boat in 1947 and later GUPPY III in 1962– one of only a handful to get the latter upgrade.

Decommissioned in 1973, the boat was still in pretty good shape when she was donated at age 36 to become a museum ship at Patriot’s Point, South Carolina where she has been since 1981, near the WWII carrier USS Yorktown.

The Clamagore (SS-343) being brought to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston, SC. 1981. Courtesy Tommy Trapp via Navsource

The Clamagore (SS-343) being brought to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston, SC. 1981. Courtesy Tommy Trapp via Navsource

Now, she is suffering from extensive decay and, although a group of subvets is trying to save her (and taking the state to court) Palmetto State lawmakers have voted to spend $2.7 million in public dollars to sink the Cold War-era submarine off South Carolina’s shores.

Newcastle

To replace their aging Adams (Perth)-class DDGs, the Royal Australian Navy in the 1980s ordered a six-pack of Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. Known locally as the Adelaide (FFG01)-class in RAN service, the first four vessels were built in the U.S. at Todd in Seattle, while last two were constructed by AMECON of Williamstown, Victoria.

Besides the names of large Australian cities, the vessels carried the names of past RAN vessels including two HMS/HMAS Sydney’s that fought in WWI and WWII, and Oz’s two aircraft carriers.

Photo by ABPH Tracey Casteleijn/RAN/ #950365-10

Photo by ABPH Tracey Casteleijn/RAN/ #950365-10

Canberra and Adelaide were paid off in 2005 and 2008 respectively, then sunk as dive wrecks. Sydney struck in 2015 and began scrapping soon after, while Darwin was broken up in 2017. Melbourne and Newcastle were to stick it out until the new Hobart-class destroyers arrive to replace them by 2019.

With that, HMAS Newcastle (FFG06), was put to pasture this week after she traveled more than 900,000 nautical miles, visited over 30 countries, conducted six maritime security operations and earned battle honors in East Timor, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East.

Lieutenant Commander Nick Graney salutes during the national anthem as part of HMAS Newcastle’s decommissioning ceremony at Fleet Base East, Sydney on Sunday 30th June 2019.

Lieutenant Commander Nick Graney, RAN, salutes during the national anthem as part of HMAS Newcastle’s decommissioning ceremony at Fleet Base East, Sydney on Sunday 30th June 2019.

The final Australian FFG, Melbourne (FFG05), is set to be decommissioned 26 Oct 2019 and, like Newcastle, will be sold to Chile to begin a second career on the other end of the Pacific. Should that somehow fall through, the Hellenic Navy has also expressed interest in acquiring these classic but hard-used Perries.

And the beat goes on…

Argentine Marine in Tommy splash, armed via HAFDASA

THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT, APRIL - JUNE 1982 (FKD 2935) Argentine snapshot showing an Argentine soldier from Batallon de Infanteria Marina 5 (5 BIM) on Mount Tumbledown during the Argentine occupation of the Falkland Islands. The soldier is wearing a British Second World War style helmet (probably looted as a souvenir from the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) stores in Port Stanley) and is carrying a Ballestos Molina pistol under his left arm. Thi... Copyright: � IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205018702

THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT, APRIL – JUNE 1982 (FKD 2935) Copyright: � IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205018702

“Argentine snapshot showing an Argentine from Batallon de Infanteria Marina 5 (5 BIM) on Mount Tumbledown during the 1982 Argentine occupation of the Falkland Islands. The soldier is wearing a British Second World War style helmet (probably looted as a souvenir from the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) stores in Port Stanley) and is carrying a Ballestos Molina (sic) pistol under his left arm. This photograph was one of many confiscated from Argentine prisoners by 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines Intelligence Section.”

Argentina’s “almost 1911,” the Ballester Molina of Hispano-Argentina Fábrica de Automóviles S.A. (HAFDASA) was adopted in the 1930s by not only the Argentine Army, but the Navy, police forces, and coast guard. They were also exported to Latin American countries without their own arms making plants, such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru with some 113,000 made altogether.

Ironically enough, it seems that at least 8,000 and possibly as many as 15,000 Argentine made .45s were sold to the British government for use by commando units hungry for mean looking and reliable hardware to fight the Germans in occupied Europe. These guns were meant for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), known as Churchill’s Secret Army.

And the British versions are sought after today.

British owned "B-prefix" Ballester Molina made in Argentina for the Brits in WWII. Via the National Firearms Museum

British owned “B-prefix” Ballester Molina made in Argentina for the Brits in WWII. Via the National Firearms Museum

Warship Wednesday July 22, 2015: The (Giant) Messenger God

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 22, 2015: The (Giant) Messenger God

1977 HMS Hermes R-12 with her bows nearly out of the water.

Here we see the Centaur-class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (R12) bouncing around the North Atlantic with her bow mostly out of the water in 1977. She currently is the oldest flattop in active service (though armed with just 7 elderly and increasingly cranky Sea Harriers) and has had one hell of a ride.

British carrier problems

During WWII, the Royal Navy saw the writing on the wall in the respect that, to remain a first-rate naval power with a global reach, it needed a fleet of modern aircraft carriers. Entering the war in 1939 with three 27,000 ton Courageous-class carriers converted from battlecruiser hulls, the 22,000 ton battleship-hulled HMS Eagle, the unique 27,000 ton HMS Ark Royal, and the tiny 13,000-ton HMS Hermes (pennant 95, the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier)– a total of six flattops, within the first couple years of the war 5/6th of these were sent to the bottom by Axis warships and aircraft.

Further, while two 32,000-ton Implacable-class and four 23,000-ton Illustrious-class carriers, laid down before the war were able to join the fleet, they just made up for the losses of the prewar vessels.

The Brits designed an innovative armed merchantman (CAM ships, for catapult aided merchantman, some 35 freighters armed with a single rocket-assisted Hurricane or Spitfire ready for a one-way trip) and picked up a legion of escort carriers loaned from the Americans to help fight off German Condor patrol bombers and U-boats. However, fleet operations in far-off areas away from the support of land-based RAF fighters needed fast and well-armed flattops.

That’s where the 16 planned Colossus-class light carriers, 4 Audacious-class, 4 Malta-class supercarriers (57,000-tons), and 8 Centaur-class fleet carriers came in. Ordered and designed between 1942-45, these 32 British ships would have been the envy of any navy in the world.

While the Maltas never made it off the drawing board, just 2 Audacious’s were finished (in the 50s), and most of the Colossus-class were likewise completed much after the war (some as late as the 1960s then rapidly sold or junked), the Centaurs were likewise abbreviated to just 4 much-delayed ships. One of these is the hero of our story.

Enter Hermes

HMS Hermes was laid down at Vickers-Armstrong on 21 June 1944, two weeks after the Allies stormed ashore at D-Day. She was the last of the quartet of Centaurs whose construction was started. Originally to be named HMS Elephant, she picked up the messenger of the god’s moniker of the old carrier (Pennant #95) sunk by the Japanese in 1942.

Envisioned to be the middle ground between the Colossus light carriers and the Malta supercarriers, these 737-foot long, 29,000-ton ships were fast enough (28 knots) to serve with the fleet, could cross the Atlantic or steam as far away as the Falklands (remember this) or Cape of Good Hope on a single bunker load of fuel oil and could carry some 60~ piston engine fighters and bombers (smaller than an American carrier of similar size due to their armored flight deck and hangar).

Washdown

NBC Washdown

However, WWII ended before any of the Centaurs could be completed and the four ships under construction, Hermes included, were sidelined.

She languished after the war and was only finished on 18 November 1959 (after 15 years at the builders) with a much-altered plan that included an angled flight deck to allow the operation of jet-powered aircraft at sea.

Hermes10_6

One of the last ships completed with 40mm Bofors DP AAA guns, she could carry as many as 40 aircraft in a mixed flight wing that included downright chunky Supermarine Scimitars, de Havilland Sea Vixen fighters, and turboprop-powered Fairey Gannet ASW aircraft together with Westland Whirlwind (British-built Sikorsky S-55/H-19 Chickasaw) helicopters.

hermes-10-at-sea

Spending most of the 1960s in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf area (the Brits were the preeminent naval force in the Gulf at the time), by 1968 Hermes‘ wing had been updated to include a dozen Sea Vixens, 7 Buccaneer strike planes, Wessex choppers (British-built turbine-powered development of the Sikorsky SH-34 Seabat) and 5 Gannets in AEW roles.

The 63 foot long, 30-ton Blackburn Buccaneer was the same size as the later F-14 Tomcat and could carry up to 6-tons of ordnance including the British Red Beard or WE.177 tactical nuclear bombs to a range of some 2,300 nautical miles. The Brits still had these in service as late as 1994, but couldn’t use them in the Falklands as Hermes had her CATOBAR system removed. They likely would have come in very handy if she hadn’t and there were still some in the fleet.

A Sea Vixen launching from HMS Hermes.

A Sea Vixen launching from HMS Hermes.

The F-4 Phantom was successfully tested from her decks, but it was deemed that she wouldn’t be able to carry enough (just 12, landing the rest of wing ashore) to matter.

Rare colour image of two Fleet Air Arm Buccaneers on the catapults of HMS Hermes, 1968. XT282 (325) XV152 (324) of 809 Squadron. She lost her catapults in 1970

Rare color image of two Fleet Air Arm Buccaneers on the catapults of HMS Hermes, 1968. XT282 (325) XV152 (324) of 809 Squadron.

In 1970, her catapults and arrester wires were removed (as were her old Bofors and radars) and she was converted to a “commando carrier” capable of carrying a Royal Marine battalion. Her air wing was some 20 Marine helicopters. She was also given storage and handling areas for 4 LCVP landing craft.

She was modified to carry as many as 800 Royal Marines. Dig those L1A1 SLRs (semi-auto Enfield made FN FALs)

She was modified to carry as many as 800 Royal Marines. Dig those L1A1 SLRs (semi-auto Enfield made FN FALs)

When the Harrier came out, Hermes was given a ski jump to help those VSTOL beauties take off (they would land vertically so no arrester wires were needed) and her wing was fleshed out by ASW helicopters to allow her to carry out the NATO sea control mission concept if needed.

Harrier jump jets on the Deck of HMS Hermes

Harrier jump jets on the Deck of HMS Hermes

By 1982, with the Malta’s never built, the Colossus and Audacious-class carriers all retired, and Hermes‘s own sister ships HMS Centaur (R06), HMS Albion (R07), and HMS Bulwark (R08) decommissioned in 1965, 1972 and 1981 respectively, she was at the same time the largest, oldest and most effective carrier left in the Royal Navy with only the smaller and barely broke-in 19,000-ton “Harrier carrier” HMS Invincible to back her up.

Ironically both carriers were up for sale at the time, as Parliament was determined to get the UK out of the carrier business.

Then came the Falklands.

With the nearest RAF base some 4,000 miles away at Wideawake Airfield, Ascension Island, the aircraft that the RN could carry to the Malvinas were the only ones that would be available to defend the British attempt to retake the colony.

Royal Marines line up for a weapons check in the hanger of HMS Hermes in the South Atlantic on their way to the Falklands in 1982

Royal Marines line up for a weapons check in the hanger of HMS Hermes in the South Atlantic on their way to the Falklands in 1982. Note the hangar crammed full of Harriers and the big Sea Kings on a deck above.

Hermes carried an impressive (for her size) complement of 26 RN Sea Harriers and RAF Harriers (more than half of the British combat aircraft deployed to the conflict) as well as up to 22 big Sea Kings at one time or another (though most were cross-decked to other platforms) and was flagship of Rear Adm. Sandy Woodward’s Task Force 317.8 for the war.

HMS HERMES' flight deck as she sails from Portsmouth for the South Atlantic. Five Sea Harriers of No 800 Squadron Fleet Air Arm

View looking aft down HMS HERMES’ flight deck as she sails from Portsmouth for the South Atlantic. Five Sea Harriers of No 800 Squadron Fleet Air Arm are visible on the crowded flight deck in front of a mass of Sea Kings. At the time of sailing, the crew had not had time to organize the stowing of aircraft or supplies. IWM (FKD 674)

Hermes gunner with a WWII era 20mm in the Falklands

Hermes gunner in anti-flash gear with a WWII era 20mm in the Falklands

The 100~ ship (though only 27 warships) combined fleet, the largest British flotilla formed since 1956 in the Suez crisis, departed the UK on 5 April and after an epic 25-day trip arrived in the 200-mile exclusion zone surrounding Falklands, with the Argentinians beginning their attacks on the force the very next day.

Harrier of No 1 Squadron RAF is prepared for a sortie on the flight deck of HMS HERMES, 1982.

Harrier of No 1 Squadron RAF is prepared for a sortie on the flight deck of HMS HERMES, 1982.

Arriving in the Falklands, her Harriers conducted both air support for the troops ashore and held up a pretty good CAP against attacking Argentine Mirages and Skyhawks. In all the RN and RAF Harriers (just 38 aircraft, mostly operating from Hermes) flew over 1,500 sorties in the 45 days while on station before the British Jack was hoisted over Port Stanley once more, and were credited with 20 air-to-air kills.

Air group at the height of the Falklands Conflict:
800 NAS – 16 Sea Harrier FRS.1
826 NAS – 5 Sea King HAS.5
846 NAS – 5 Sea King HC.4
No. 1 Squadron RAF – 10 Harrier GR.3

Petty officer aboard HMS Hermes crossing equator on way back to the UK from the Falklands

A petty officer aboard HMS Hermes crossing equator on way back to the UK from the Falklands

Steel beach party on HMS Hermes note sea harrier and sea king

Steel beach party on HMS Hermes note Sea harrier and the sea king

When Hermes sailed back into Portsmouth, she and the Task Force was greeted by everything that floated.

HMS Hermes being welcomed back after the Falklands War,

HMS Hermes being welcomed back after the Falklands War

hermes

Her Royal Navy career ended 12 April 1984 and she was paid off while on her 15th skipper.

However, although she was the last of her class afloat and her keel had forty years on it, she was still valuable.

Refitted, she was sold to India in 1987 and took the name INS Viraat (R22) and, homeported in Mumbai, she has served the Indian Navy for 28 continuous years, undergoing a further five refits while in Indian service.

INS Viraat, 2002

INS Viraat, 2002

Her current name means, “Giant” and she was the largest ship ever operated by the Indian Navy until they bought the 65,000-ton Admiral Gorshkov from the Russians and brought her in service as INS Vikramaditya in 2013.

Viramaditya’ (foreground) and ‘Viraat.’ Indian Navy photo

Vikramaditya’ (foreground) and ‘Viraat.’ Indian Navy photo

Admiral-Sandy-Woodward-le-011

Of note, Admiral Sir John Forster “Sandy” Woodward GBE, KCB passed the bar 4 August 2013. In his last public act, he decried the decommissioning of Britain’s carrier force before the new Queen Elizabeth class could be brought online, leaving the country that invented the type without a flattop for the first time in a century.

Hermes/Viraat is currently the last British-built ship serving with the Indian Navy, and the oldest aircraft carrier in service in the world, and with over 70 years under her keel and two new carriers on the builder’s ways, its time for the old girl to retire.

She is to decommission by 2016 and be retained as a museum ship.

From the Hindu Times:

The retirement call was forced, in part, by the dwindling fleet of Sea Harrier fighters operating from the deck of Viraat. While the limited upgrade Sea Harrier (LUSH) programme bestowed the fighters with modern avionics and beyond visual range (BVR) strike capability, the ageing airframe has been a concern. Not more than seven Sea Harriers are available at the moment — some of them cannibalized (used as ‘Christmas Tree’ for spares) to keep the relatively agile ones airworthy.

“Thanks to the Navy’s stringent maintenance regimen, we have been able to operate Viraat without major glitches until now. But the Harrier fleet has dwindled so much that within the Navy, Viraat is often referred to as a ‘One Harrier carrier’. No point flogging it any further,” an official said.

A very active veterans group preserves her memory (as well as that of the other 9 HMS Hermes dating back to 1796) in the UK.

HMS Broadsword with HMS Hermes, Falklands. Official painting by John Alan Hamilton for the MoD. (c) Mrs B.G.S. Hamilton (widow); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

HMS Broadsword with HMS Hermes, Falklands. Official painting by John Alan Hamilton for the MoD. (c) Mrs. B.G.S. Hamilton (widow); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sadly, the Royal Navy has not carried the name on its roles since 1985.

Specs:

Hermes, 1966, via Shipbucket http://img.photobucket.com/albums/0703/catherine.fisher/Hermes13-31.png~original

Hermes, 1966, via Shipbucket

Hermes, 1982, via Shipbucket http://img.photobucket.com/albums/0703/catherine.fisher/Hermes13-31.png~original

Hermes, 1982, via Shipbucket

As Viraat, 1990, via Shipbucket http://www.shipbucket.com/Real%20Designs/India/CV%20R22%20Viraat%201990.png

As Viraat, 1990, via Shipbucket

Displacement: 22,000 tons 28,700 tons full load
Length: 737 ft. (224.6 m)
Beam: 130 ft. (39.6 m)
Draught: 28.5 ft. (8.7 m)
Installed power: 78,000 hp (58,000 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shaft geared steam turbines, 4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nmi (13,000 km) at 18 kn (33 km/h)
Sensors: Radar Type 982, Type 983, Type 275, Type 974
Complement: 2,100 including carrier air wing. 1970-75 as Commando Carrier: 1500 plus up to 800 Marines.
Armament: 32 40mm Bofors guns (2 × 6), (8 × 2), (4 × 1) removed in 1970, replaced with 2 Sea Cat missile system launchers. During Falklands, her armament was increased with the addition of numerous small gun mounts.
Armor: 1.2-inch flight deck, Hangar deck
Aircraft carried: 7-60 depending on year and role

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