The last of the Royal Navy’s Invincible class aircraft carriers has been retired after 32 years’ service. HMS Illustrious entered Portsmouth for the final time on 22 July with a tug escort and flypast by helicopters from all three services, followed by a navy Hawk jet and a brief air display by a Hawker Sea Fury.
During a long career, the carrier served the nation’s interests in the Falklands, Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and most recently in the Philippines, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief after parts of the country were hit by a devastating typhoon. Fittingly, her final high profile public role was in support of the navy’s next generation of aircraft carrier at the naming ceremony of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Following public dissatisfaction about the way the other two carriers, Invincible and Ark Royal, were unceremoniously scrapped, the Ministry of Defence has invited tendersfrom private companies, charities and trusts to preserve her. However, no word on her future has yet been announced.