New Delhi: After she took to the skies in an Indian Air Forcer Sukhoi fighter jet in November, President Pratibha Patil is likely to have an underwater odyssey amid plans to set sail this month-end on INS Viraat.
Virat, which is India’s sole aircraft carried, crossed the golden jubilee milestone on November 18 this year.
While the date was being firmed up by the Navy and the Rashtrapati Bhavan officials for December 28, official sources said on Thursday that the President, after reviewing the Navy’ Western fleet in Mumbai, will leave for Nilayam in Hyderabad for her annual winter retreat.
This visit will also give the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces an opportunity to get a first hand view of the Navy’s preparedness in coastal security after 26/11, the sources said.
Patil is unlikely to spend a night on board the aircraft carrier.
The President’s sea sojourn comes barely a month after she took to skies in IAF’s frontline fighter aircraft - Sukhoi 30MKI.
Patil went up to the height of over 8,000 feet as a co-pilot in the plane which was commandeered by Wing Commander S Sajjan of Pune-based 30 ‘Rhinos’ squadron.
The 28,000-tonne Centaur class aircraft carrier, which was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on November 18, 1959, was later bought by India in 1987 and rechristened INS Viraat.
The warship, which has already served the Indian Navy for 23 years, recently rejoined the fleet after a year long upgrade to give it a life extension for another five years.
The service life of the aircraft carrier is expected to last till 2015, nearly 15 years over and above its life span of 40 years.
By that time, the Navy expects Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, bought from Russia in 2004, to join its fleet and the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built in Kochi too would be ready for induction by 2015.