Former light carrier HMS Illustrious has departed Portsmouth for the final time.
The carrier was sold for scrap in a £2.1 million deal after schemes to preserve her for the nation were abandoned. It is understood that three cities submitted proposals to try to preserve the vessel but each fell through.
Following the retirement of her Harriers in 2010, Illustrious operated as one of two Royal Navy helicopter carriers. By 2014 she was the oldest ship in the Royal Navy’s active fleet, having 32 years’ service.
An MoD spokeswoman said:
“We have done all we can for over two years to find a home for the former HMS Illustrious in the UK, and regrettably no suitable bidder has come forward. While it is a difficult decision, we have announced an open competition for the recycling of HMS Illustrious, while remaining open to heritage options.”
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
“Over three decades Illustrious set the highest standards for service that the Royal Navy will continue with HMS Queen Elizabeth when she arrives into Portsmouth next year.
Backed by a rising defence budget, our new aircraft carriers will lead a growing Royal Navy as Britain steps up to defend our country and our interests.”
Captain Jerry Kyd, former Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious and current Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said:
“Lusty provided a world-class service to the Royal Navy and we bid her goodbye with fond memories. As she leaves Portsmouth I’m looking forward to the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will ensure that we remain a global maritime power.”
The ship was sold to Turkish company LEYAL Ship Recycling Ltd for around £2 million. Both Invincible and Ark Royal, the sister ships of Illustrious, were also recycled.