Portsmouth-based HMS Illustrious retires from Navy

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An aircraft carrier that served in Bosnia and the Gulf as well as helping with aid missions has been taken out of service.

Invincible-class HMS Illustrious has been decommissioned at a service at Portsmouth Naval Base after 32 years.

Lady Sarah Chatto, daughter of Princess Margaret who launched HMS Illustrious in 1978, was at the event with hundreds of veterans.

The ship will be sold but the buyer must keep HMS Illustrious in the UK.

HMS Illustrious history

  • HMS Illustrious was built by Swan Shipbuilders on the Tyne
  • Launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978
  • The ship was deployed to the Falkland Islands after the 1982 war and provided a floating airfield
  • In 2008, Illustrious was the star of Channel 5's documentary Warship

Dr Duncan Redford, senior research fellow in modern naval history at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said it would be interesting to see where it ends up.

He said: "The ministers in government have made it clear that they would like to see a heritage option... in the disposal plans.

"Illustrious is a big ship - there are going to be a limited number of ports and cities that will have the infrastructure that will be able to support her."

Illustrious ceremony Illustrious's White Ensign was lowered for the final time during a dockside ceremony in front of hundreds of guests

The 22,000-tonne ship will eventually be replaced by HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the final two construction projects undertaken by BAE Systems in Portsmouth.

Its White Ensign was lowered for the final time during the ceremony in front of hundreds of guests.

Captain Mike Utley, the ship's commanding officer, said: "We say goodbye to Illustrious with sadness and pride as we remember her outstanding history but also excitement as the Royal Navy looks to the future and HMS Queen Elizabeth."

The ship has sailed 900,000 miles on operations across the globe, including the aftermath of the Falklands War, helping maintain a no-fly zone in Bosnia in the 1990s and doing the same in the Arabian Gulf in 1998.

It also helped with the aid mission in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.

HMS Illustrious The ship has sailed 900,000 miles on operations across the globe

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