In 32 years of exemplary service, between 1982 and 2014, HMS Illustrious covered over 900,000 nautical miles. Operations ranged from stabilization efforts in the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War and delivering humanitarian aid after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013.
In October 2013, the MOD launched a competition to seek innovative bids to retain the aircraft carrier in the UK. The aim of the competition was to see part or all of the ship developed for heritage purposes and, while a number of bids were received, none proved to be viable.
Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin 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 all options have now been exhausted.
It is with a sense of pride for her and her crews’ achievements that we say goodbye to the ship, and we look forward to the arrival in Portsmouth of the UK’s next generation of aircraft carriers.
The ship has now been 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. It is anticipated that Illustrious will leave Portsmouth for Turkey in the autumn of this year, ahead of the arrival of the first of the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2017. The QEC aircraft carriers, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, will transform the Royal Navy’s ability to project our influence overseas, able to respond to crises, while promoting our prosperity and British values globally.
Mike Utley, former Commanding Officer on HMS Illustrious, said:
Lusty provided a world-class service to the Royal Navy for over three decades. We will bid her farewell with a heavy heart but in the knowledge that everything has been done to find a use for her.
As the former aircraft carrier gets ready to leave Portsmouth, so we can look to the future and the arrival of the new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, which will ensure that the Royal Navy continues to be a pre-eminent maritime power in the modern world.