The Indian Navy currently currently operates a sole Aircraft Carrier, the INS Viraat [R22], that it has been with it since the 1980s, when it acquired the Centaur-class Aircraft Carrier, HMS Hermes, from Britain. The Hermes itself had been in operation since 1959, essentially making the still-operational Aircraft Carrier in active duty for 53 years. This makes the Viraat the longest serving Aircraft Carrier, ever, and perhaps amongst the longest serving warships too.
After having undergone multiple capability upgrades, to extend the life of this floating city, the Indian Navy has finally decided to decommission the Aircraft Carrier. This would mark the culmination of a glorious more than half a century of operation, that has seen the Viraat, in its Hermes avatar, lead Britain's highly successful military campaign to wrest back control of the the Falkland islands from Argentina. During its service with the Indian Navy, short of a full-fledged Naval blockade, it successfully kept up maritime pressure on Pakistan, during the Kargil war of 1999. So effective was the quasi-blockade that the then Prime Minister of Pakistan admitted that its country had been reduced to just six days of Petroleum reserves, following which things would have become extremely dire in their land. This, and multiple, concurrent factors forced the withdrawal of the Pakistani Army & its jihadi underlings from Indian territory.
A collection of photographs shot of the INS Viraat. Click on them for the higher-resolution version.
source: mostly blog.daum.net
The decision to retire INS Viraat was, perhaps made easy by the fact that INS Vikramditya, India's latest Aircraft Carrier acquisition from Russia, is to finally arrive in India by the end of this year [December 4 2012, likely]. In addition, India is building its own Aircraft Carrier [Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 (IAC-1)], INS Vikrant, named so after an earlier Aircraft Carrier it operated.. It would be, therefore, be fitting that the follow-on Carrier [IAC-2] is named INS Viraat.