Hampshire & Isle of Wight

HMS Illustrious to be retired from Royal Navy

HMS Illustrious Image copyright Steve Parsons/PA wire
Image caption HMS Illustrious has been deployed to conflict zones including Bosnia, Iraq and Sierra Leone

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 £65m 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 the ship had a "long and proud history".

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

Sold for scrap

Its entry into service was brought forward so it could assist in the Falklands War effort.

The carrier was hastily commissioned at sea en route to Portsmouth to pick up supplies and crew before heading to the South Atlantic. A formal ceremony was held when it returned to the UK.

It has also been deployed to conflict zones in Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and helped aid efforts after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in December.

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

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

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.

Vice Admiral Sir Philip Jones said: "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."

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