Retirement date for HMS Illustrious

Hillingdon Times: HMS Illustrious is the last of the Invincible class of aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious is the last of the Invincible class of aircraft carriers

The Royal Navy's helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is to be retired next month after 32 years of service.

The Portsmouth-based warship is to be replaced by HMS Ocean, which has just received a £65 million refit.

A decommissioning ceremony will be held later in the year and Illustrious's final return to base could be as early as next Tuesday.

Vice Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the Navy's fleet commander, said: "HMS Illustrious has a long and proud history with the Royal Navy.

"During her 32 years of service she has protected our nation's interests in the Falklands, Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and most recently the Philippines.

"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.

"It was only fitting, therefore, that HMS Illustrious' final high-profile public role was to support the naming by Her Majesty of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on July 4.

"Poignantly the ceremony allowed us to celebrate the Navy we have known so well for so long with the navy of the future, side by side.

"The Royal Navy will, of course, mark the departure of HMS Illustrious with all the pride she deserves and is supportive of plans to retain her intact in the UK to preserve the legacy of the Invincible class and all those who served in them."

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

While its sister ships were sold for scrap after they were retired, the Government has indicated that Illustrious could be turned into a floating museum as a tribute to the decommissioned class of warship.

Illustrious' entry into service was brought forward so it could assist in the Falklands War effort and it was not formally commissioned until after it returned to the UK.

It then went on to serve in the Bosnian and Sierra Leone conflicts, and also helped evacuate Britons during the Lebanon war in 2006.

Following the retirement of the Harrier aircraft in 2010, Illustrious went on to serve as one of the navy's two helicopter carriers, the other being Plymouth-based HMS Ocean.

Its role will be replaced by the next generation of aircraft carriers, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set to be commissioned in 2016.

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