HMS Illustrious returns to Portsmouth
Falklands veteran, ‘Lusty’, may become floating museum in tribute.
HMS Illustrious returns to Portsmouth for final time
The Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious will return to Portsmouth for the final time.
Crowds are expected to line the port later to welcome the warship, which will retire after 32 years of service.
The carrier, which has clocked up 898,893 miles on operations, will be replaced by HMS Ocean, which has just received a £65m refit.
The Ministry of Defence has invited tenders from private companies and trusts to secure Illustrious’s future.
Vice Admiral Sir Philip Jones said: “HMS Illustrious has a long and proud history with the Royal Navy.
“The decision to replace her in service with HMS Ocean will ensure that the Royal Navy has her most advanced and capable ships working to protect the nation.”
HMS Illustrious, nicknamed Lusty, is the last of the Invincible class of aircraft carriers which included the Ark Royal and Invincible, introduced into the navy in the 1980s.
Its entry into service was brought forward so it could assist in the Falklands War effort.
It has also been deployed to conflict zones in Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and helped aid efforts after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in December.
But the decision to retire the ship has been criticised by specialist publishers Warship World, which said the date had been brought forward due to a “manpower crisis” on other ships.
In a statement, the publisher said: “The problem goes back many years when recruiting for the Navy was almost halted, when plans to drastically cut it back in size were announced.
“The serious effects are only now being felt with sufficient well-trained, experienced engineers now being unavailable for sea service. Replacements cannot be trained overnight.”
This has been denied by the Navy which said it was an operational decision and part of a long-standing plan.
While its sister ships were sold for scrap, the government has indicated that Illustrious could be turned into a floating museum, as a tribute to the decommissioned class of warship.