Aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to make final journey to Turkish scrapyard

Updated: 
HMS Illustrious decommissioned

Illustrious is the last of the Invincible class of aircraft carriers, which included the Ark Royal and Invincible, that were introduced into the Navy in the 1980s.

Crowds are expected to gather in Portsmouth to wave off the Royal Navy's former aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious as she is towed away to a Turkish scrapyard.

The 22,000-tonne ship, affectionately known as "Lusty", was formally decommissioned in August 2014 after 32 years of service and has been sold to Turkish company Leyal Ship Recycling for about £2 million. The sale came despite proposals to turn the carrier into a floating hotel, museum or even a UK centre for powerboats.

Following the retirement of the Harrier aircraft in 2010, Illustrious went on to serve as one of the Navy's two helicopter carriers.

This has left the service without a fixed-wing aircraft carrier until the first of the next generation of carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is commissioned next year.

David Rogers, chairman of the HMS Illustrious Association, said: "It is obviously quite sad that she is going - she served the country well for some 32 years - but it is inevitable that she is going to make way for the Queen Elizabeth class carriers."

The carrier, built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978, had her entry into service brought forward so she could assist in the Falklands War effort.

The warship's deployment was so rushed that her commissioning ceremony took place at sea en route to the Falklands on June 20 1982, while she was formally commissioned on her return.

During the conflict, she relieved sister ship HMS Invincible in providing a floating airfield for aircraft unable to use the islands' damaged RAF base.

Illustrious went on to support forces in Afghanistan and served in the Bosnia and Sierra Leone conflicts and also helped evacuate Britons during the Lebanon war in 2006.

In 2008, the carrier became the star of Channel 5's six-part documentary Warship, which followed her deployment to the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia for a series of exercises and diplomatic visits to 20 ports.

In 2013, Illustrious was involved in efforts to distribute disaster relief after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.