THE FLAGSHIP of the Royal Navy during the Falklands War is to be sold for less than a penny – to become a new luxury hotel in India.
HMS Hermes won a place in British military history after leading the assault which recaptured the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1982.
But now, the once-mighty aircraft carrier from Portsmouth is destined for another life – as a high-end floating hotel for wealthy tourists.
The iconic 24,000-tonnes leviathan will be transformed into a five-star hotel moored in India’s Bay of Bengal.
Inside the vast 13-storey structure of the aging warship – which was sold by Britain to the Indian Navy in 1986 – will be a plethora of luxury suites, swimming pools, a night club, and at least five restaurants.
There will also be a private helicopter pad to fly in wealthy patrons from the mainland.
The 600-room vessel was sold by the Indian government for just one rupee in an effort to compensate for the annual maintenance cost which is expected to hit more than £1m.
The former Centaur-class ship is the oldest serving aircraft carrier in the world and is due to be formerly decommissioned in June after operating for almost 60 years.
Her illustrious history is expected to be highlighted in a special museum on board.
It was in April 1982 that Hermes became the flagship of the British task force sent to liberate the Falkland Islands.
After 74 days of fighting, and with victory claimed, Hermes returned to Portsmouth to a rapturous welcome from thousands of well-wishers.
Fours years later the ship was sold to the Indian Navy and renamed the INS Viraat – which means ‘giant’ in Sanskrit.
She remained in active service with India for almost 30 years – most recently completing the International Fleet Review alongside the Portsmouth-based destroyer, HMS Defender.
The state of Andhra Pradesh, on India’s east coast, has bought the vessel and is due to splash out £85m to transform it into one of the finest hotels and tourist attractions in India.
The site, which is expected to retain the name Viraat, is due to open in 2018.