Replica of ship that helped liberate Bangladesh displayed at Regal Circle

AS A tribute to India’s first aircraft carrier Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant, which helped our country in the 1971 Indo-Pak war to liberate Bangladesh, the Indian Navy has installed a replica of the ship near the Regal circle in south Mumbai this month. The 10.5-meter-long replica was installed on a traffic island and is already a hit with citizens and tourists visiting the Gateway of India and are seen clicking photographs and taking selfies with it.

“INS Vikrant was close to the hearts of all Indian naval personnel. So, the Navy decided to make a scaled model replica of the ship as a tribute to its legacy,” said Lieutenant Bishnu, project officer for designing the replica. The spot was chosen as the nearby naval dockyard was Vikrant’s home port. The replica shows the aircraft carrier in action with fighter jets taking off from the ship while other fighter jets and helicopters are stationed on the ship, which was termed as “Mother” by all aviators.

A team of 10 to 12 artists from the Indian Navy led by Nageshkumar (48), a civilian technical staff in the Navy, had a challenge on their hands as the ship was scrapped and they had to rely on photographs in the public domain to make a model.

Nageshkumar, who has worked on several such projects said, “My team, including Arvind Kumar, put in a lot of dedication and devotion to construct it over five months. It is made from mild steel, wood and aluminium. We kept in mind small details to give it a realistic view. It will last at least for 15 years and for longer lasting we intend to recommend the MCGM to put it in a showcase.”

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The warship played a pivotal role in the Liberation of Bangladesh (Indo-Pak war of 1971) by strangulating East Pakistan. Commodore Srikant Kesnur, an Indian Navy historian, said, “INS Vikrant was deployed as the flagship of the Eastern Fleet in the Bay of Bengal a few months before the war in preparation. The Sea Hawk, fighter aircraft and Alize maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew from INS Vikrant, bombarded East Pakistan’s ports and infrastructure, and established the Navy’s supremacy in the Bay of Bengal. They destroyed several installations and sank Pakistani merchant ships and gunships. They effectively sealed the escape route for the Pakistani Army attempting to flee from East to West. That is why there were more than 90,000 prisoners of war. Together, the carrier-borne aircraft flew close to 300 sorties. And all this with zero casualty.”

The aircraft was bought from the United Kingdom and was inducted into the Indian Navy in 1961 and was rechristened Vikrant, meaning courage. After 36 years of service, it was decommissioned in January 1997. Vikrant along with other warships gave the Navy the status of a three-dimensional Navy (air, sea, below sea) in 1967 when the first Indian submarine was commissioned in the Navy.

Another tribute to INS Vikrant is being paid by naming the first indigenous aircraft carrier of India after it. The first indigenous aircraft will be the fourth aircraft carrier to be operated by the Indian Navy. The carrier is undergoing sea trials presently and is set to be commissioned into service this year. India currently has one aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, while INS Viraat and INS Vikrant are decommissioned.

Until 2012 INS Vikrant remained as a floating museum ship at the naval dockyard after which it was scrapped in 2014. Some of the metal was used to make a small model of the carrier, which is installed outside the Lion Gate near the naval dockyard.