HMS Illustrious is to be sold for scrap after schemes to preserve her for the nation as a floating museum fell through.

Scrap dealers are being asked to bid to “recycle” the retired HMS Illustrious. The announcement is expected to end hopes the carrier can be saved. 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, and will not be replaced until HMS Queen Elizabeth is in service. It was originally announced that Illustrious would be preserved for the nation, this now seems unlikely.

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.”

The notice, which can be found here, states:

“The Disposal Services Authority (DSA) is inviting expressions of interest for the sale of the former HMS Illustrious for recycling. She was decommissioned in 2014.

All parties interested in acquiring the vessel should note that a Bank Guarantee of £2 Million will be required by the DSA and will not bereleased until the recycling of the vessel is nearing completion. Viewing of the vessel is due to take place in June (date to be confirmed).”

While this is a shame, it’s understandable as most believe the money required to run the vessel as a museum while maintaining her is simply not there.


  1. I’ve always wondered, where is she now? Is she in Portsmouth still being manned and maintained buy the RN, and can she still sail under her own power?

    • she would need a reactivation proceedure which could be done in around 8 weeks, recrewing could be chieved by transfer from r.n. reserves and the fleet of sailors with a history of having srved on lusty the ark royal and ,invincible.

    • She is laid up in Portsmouth in Fareham Creek awaiting disposal. She is unmanned & will have been stripped of all useable equipment.

  2. This is a disgrace she is the last ship that served in the falklands war left she deserves to be a museum not some foreign Turkish scrapyard which tragically claimed her 2 sister ships Invincible and Ark Royal

    • Will be very expensive…..there is no one that will take on the project. Funding would have to come from HLF and private donors who are willing to accept there will be no profit in it

      • even in a museum state, preservation, and mooring/docking etc shoe’d go for scrap anyway she’d cost a fortune whatever you did with her.if any of her steel is reusable i’d like to see it go the yards tasked with building type 26 or 31 ships,. for the future

  3. Good.

    These so called ‘aircraft carriers’ were an embarrassment to the UK & RN.

    A floating reminder of managed post WWII decline by gutless 3rd rate politicians.

    Respect goes out to the crews, they did their very best with what they were given, but what they were given was embarrassing given the history of the RN.

    • the shame lies squarely with the muddled p halfwits at the treasury/m.o.d who don’t have a clue what they need or howto operate the royal navy

    • i as in the falklands and i assure you now they did exactly what they were sent to do. and i for one are glad of it.

  4. That was strange UK Defence Journal the comment thread vanished as I was about to ask why Joe’s comment was deemed in bad taste, could you please elaborate from your rules why it is so as I could not find any rules on the page.

  5. Maybe people should remember it was these aircraft carriers that kept the Falklands in the hands of the islanders. To say they are an embarrassment is disrespecting their achievements and their crews let’s not forget the humanitarian relief they gave

  6. Near most American city’s with links have some sort of maritime museum …..USS ALABAMA in mobile is an example there’s even a Blackbird AND a ww2 boat and other militarilia

    All we have is Alliance

    • Instead of going off on one do some reading on the subject – no back handers involved.

      Manpower costs, specialist manpower capacity, lack of facilities, environmental considerations, recycling facilities, etc, etc…

      However if you think it is a real shame and “someone” should do something about it – why not you?
      Set up a business case, cost out the infrastructure and manpower then pootle off to the bank for a chat!

  7. I thought it was going to Hull for some culture exhibition, as there was talk of her going to Pompey as a museum ship with support from the Fleet Air Arm museum. Might pay to sail her up the Thames and park her outside Westminster as a reminder to MPs of our once mighty navy!

  8. I’m sorry but if we can keep Nelsons flagship, Has Bristol and an old Submarine in Portsmouth then surely we can keep Illustrious, after all its the Invincible class Aircraft Carrier is who we have to thank for winning the Falklands. So maybe we should keep it as a floating museum, with Falkland spec Harriers and Sea Kings on the flight dec as a fitting tribute to those who lost there life in 1982.

  9. What a shame, the government should step in and pay for this and retain it as a public piece, it doesn’t have to be financially viable, after all the opera and other performing arts are not financially viable and yet huge amount of government money.

    We have a proud navy history and yet there is less than a handful of the famous ships left preserved for future generations to understand the history of their country.

    • donate it to the australian/canadian/ kiwi navy’s in recognition of their service to the u.k. in the past.

  10. There are huge gaps in our maritime and aviation heritage because no one would plan ahead and put up the cash. When it’s gone it’s gone so lost to future generations. The Lottery should help out with this one.

  11. Yes she is a warship but what differs her from the aztec, egyptian or roman empires of old, only age. in 50/1000 years people will be interested to learn of the British empire and yet nothing is left.

    The Falkland war was the last major naval wars (and we all hope it stays that way) and yet soon there will be nothing left to remember it.

    We have a patchy history with our empire, and there is a lot that we are not that proud of, but the falkland war war without a debut a war of horror.

    I don’t give a stuff about why we went to war (politics, oil, blah blah), it doesn’t matter, in the end there was British Citizens that were invaded and we said no, I don’t get why we are not proud of that and why we are not preserving that memory.

    • What did the British ever do for us?….
      Jet engine
      Computers etc.

      They’ll be some comedy film in 50 years time with four well known actors blurting it out!

  12. How much do they expect to get from scrapping her? Would make an interesting hotel, conference centre and restaurants with possibly a sports club.. It’s certainly big enough and surely this is viable unless the MOD are making it difficult or is it just to unconventional for any of the big operators to even look at?

  13. Why not rerole her into a dedicated Commando/Helicopter carrier for 3 Commando Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade to deliver out of area operations alongside the new Aircraft Carriers?
    With the retiring of HMS Ocean due to service life, im sure this role could be taken over with a small upgrade plan and cost less in the long run

  14. Sad that money can’t be found to turn into a museum but all this talk of deploying her again is just madness. Sadly she has no place in today’s Royal Navy.

    Firstly she’s old and probably in serious disrepair now due to a lot of the routine maintenance probably not done for years. Secondly, and more significantly, even if she had been kept in full operating condition she needs a complement of 685 excluding air crew compared to 262 for the bigger and far more capable Juan Carlos class for example or 160 for a Mistral which, although technically slightly lower tonnage (not by much), is also a far more capable ship.

    We simply can’t afford to run such a crew-intensive ship and adding sufficient automation to reduce the crew requirement, even if possible, would probably cost more than buying a brand new Mistral.

  15. I have read all of your comments and I think we all agree she should be saved, there are also many interesting views , to what she could be used for, the hotel idea is a good one, but at the end of the day it is out of our hands and whilst I am no fan of the present government they have to look at where they can get the best value for money. We could petition the government to donate her to the nation or we can hope that once she has been recycled some of her will make it into building future ships for the Royal Navy.

  16. Ok the oil hasn’t quiet worked out as planned, and money is probably short, but i am surprised the falklands haven’t expressed an interest. They owe their life style to this tin bucket.

    • I do agree with what your saying. If her hull is stopping her from continuing her service and we can’t save her. Then salvaging her would be a better option for her, at least she could be used to build or repair other ships. I am just saying chinas first and only aircraft carrier is russian and they just refitted it with every modern tech there is.

    • She’s hardly worth the effort on the part of the chinese. Some country could have bought her if they had harriers left. Now , besides the historical value, she’s only good for scrap

    • Taking into account on what you said Ankit Majumder. I do agree with your points, think the chinese would have just bothered with the harriers if they wasn’t retired and just left the ship behind.

    • Heck, india probably would have kept the Ins virat in service longer with major refurbishment, if the gr-9s were up for grabs. We just retired our sea harriers and converted the squadron to mig-29ks

    • I was reading about India’s navy on a defense website saying some rear admiral has set out a 15 year indigenous plan. The plan was to reduce the navy’s dependency on imports from 70%, to how low they can go. He wanted the ships to have ‘made in india’ stamp and by 2030 the fleet would be all modernized from deck guns to laser weapons (yes his plan actually included the installation of laser weapons onboard)

    • yes the indian shipping industry has grown.
      We started off by building leander classes under license..
      Then designing our own surface combatants..most ships in the IN are indian designed and built now, and the first carrier and nuclear submarine are on the cusp of commissioning. The indegenisation plan mainly looks to reduce foreign component in sensors.

      As for the laser weapons…the long term plans usually have some futuristic tech they’d want the design orgs to work towards. Its not a concrete requirement.

    • I assume when you said IN you meant UN? If so then thats a first, hearing most UN vessels are designed and built in India. Oh yeah India’s first SSBN that is going to be commisioned sometime this year. Built to replace that Russian SSBN think its called Chakra? On a decade lease right? Well if India can reduce more than just sensors I am sure they will.

      True about the futuristic tech requirements. I believe with the way how Lockheed Martin is progressing with laser tech it could be doable. They did a live test not long back with a robotic barge to see if the laser prototype can hit moving targets. It set the whole thing alight. It’s all about money mate, if your rear admiral has got the money to spare.

  17. Scilla was the last warship to be built in Devonport (1968) not Plymouth (1959). RDV Crystal (1971) was the final hull though she was a very large research barge.

  18. The government should take control and say its being preserved its a part of our history even get it docked in London its been there before save this vessel ☺

  19. Serious question for those in the know.. What happens to the all the weapon systems? are they sold off or used for other ships?

    • They are normally put into storage and used on other ships, if viable.

      Look at the Type 45’s, some were fitted with the spare Harpoon missiles from the old type 22’s.

      If the ship is sold, the weapons regularly go with it.

      • Also, that whole concept of moving weapons between ships is integral to the new T26 frigate program. Many of the weapons and other systems on each T26 will be “cross decked” from a T23 that is being replacing (e.g. Sea Ceptor missiles, Phalanx CIWS, Artisan radar). That’s supposed to de-risk the T26 development because so many of the weapons systems will have already been fully shaken down on the T23 and also save costs. Sadly it doesn’t seem to have been enough to keep unit cost of T26 down to the level that was hoped for hence the cut in numbers.

        • The cost is more to do with them being a little too ambitious with the design, trying to squeeze in too many roles into one hull, i assume on the basis they already know the numbers would no doubt be cut.

          Ironically, if they started again on the basis of the 8 AsW platforms and 5 multi-purpose platforms, they could have probably got a cheaper platform, since they wouldn’t have needed to make the type 26 quiet as flexible.

        • So I guess to be cost effective then the hull would have a common mounting system for things like radar and weapons?

        • speaking of type 23’s argyll is going to have a life extension refit, does this mean they’ll be kept going longer? my m.p, says he’ll ask the m.o.d

  20. It is sad, it would be nice if the UK could maintain an old carrier for the nation given the RN contribution to naval aviation. Ultimately there has to be political will and it is just not there. We can take comfort in the fact that the RN will soon have the largest carriers built outside the US and the largest warships ever built for the RN; onward and upward.

    • It would have been a nice little bonus if she could have been saved, but all those excitable types frothing at the mouth about this need to tell us where the money would be coming from to preserve the ship.
      And you are right Mike, we are getting two large multi-role carriers which will put us at the forefront of carrier aviation,certainly in European terms.

      • At least on paper we will be, but in reality let’s see just how many jets we manage to get onto the carriers and how we utilize the 2.

        I suspect the difference between our effectiveness and the French with theirs won’t be a lot of difference in practice.

        • I agree. The biggest UK benefit will be that, with two carriers, we should always have one available. I suspect we will run them like we do the Albion class at the moment, one active and one in extended readiness. When it’s active though the French carrier and the planes it carries (mainly Rafale) are pretty impressive.

        • Steve I have to confess the number of F35B fighters the UK will procure, at what rate and made available for carrier duty is a concern.

          I read a RUSI report a while ago which stated the French CDG would likely be the most potent European Carrier until at least 2025; numbers matter.

          There is also the elephant in the room and when it comes to RN fast jet capability its the RAF. They jumped on board with the F35B because they had no choice but that could change; the F35A is the RAF preferred choice and has been muted widely as the Typhoon replacement.

          The question remains will enough F35B aircraft be procured to make these new massive carriers potent, on a global scale, in their primary role

          • It won’t be a sovereign UK capability but I suspect we will see full decks, at least some of the time, well before 2025. We’ll probably be inviting the USMC on board quite a lot while we are waiting for enough of our F-35Bs to be delivered. It gives our RN crews a chance to practice full-deck procedures. Also, I don’t know how the finances work for things like this (would be interested to know if anyone has any idea) but if we were to have a carrier at sea with 24 or so US planes on it does the US military pay any sort of hosting charge to go towards the cost of having the carrier at sea?

          • Regarding “enough F35B aircraft be procured to make these new massive carriers potent, on a global scale, in their primary role” I really do hope that at some point the RN/RAF does seriously consider getting some V22 Osprey.

            Local air-to-air refueling capability off the carrier would be a great enhancement to potency if/when any strike missions are required that are deeper than the F-35B’s basic combat radius allows. From what I’ve read in reality the normal combat radius is unlikely to be the 467 miles stated in Wikipedia on many missions because an F-35B, even with the help of a ski jump, can’t take off with both a full weapons load and a full fuel load.

          • cancelling one f-35 would finance a catobar(catapult) system on each carrier then we could buy super hornets instead and save a fortune, the fly away cost of a super hornet is$60 mill the f-35 is nearly each carrier will be able to operate more aircraft


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here