Rust in piece, Lusty:Ex-British flagship now lies in bits


Sent to the scrapyard and sliced into pieces, this was once Britain’s formidable aircraft carrier patrolling the high seas.

Now the 22,000-ton former flagship, with 32 years’ service, is to be turned into razor blades and pots and pans.

The 210 metre long carrier, which once had a crew of 685 sailors, has been cut open by heavy machinery.

HMS Illustrious, known as ‘Lusty’, sailed from its home at Portsmouth Naval Base for the final time in December, with crowds lining the harbour walls to say their farewells. 

Sent to the scrapyard and sliced into pieces
It was once Britain’s formidable aircraft carrier patrolling the high seas

Rusty Lusty: Sent to the scrapyard and sliced into pieces (pictured, left), this was once Britain’s formidable aircraft carrier patrolling the high seas (right)

Chop shop: The 22,000-ton former flagship, with 32 years’ service, is to be turned into razor blades and pots and pans

Chop shop: The 22,000-ton former flagship, with 32 years’ service, is to be turned into razor blades and pots and pans

Sliced and diced: The 210 metre long carrier, which once had a crew of 685 sailors, has been cut open by heavy machinery

Sliced and diced: The 210 metre long carrier, which once had a crew of 685 sailors, has been cut open by heavy machinery

Boxed up: Photographed at the weekend at a demolition yard in Aliaga, western Turkey, in just two months’ time there will be nothing left

Boxed up: Photographed at the weekend at a demolition yard in Aliaga, western Turkey, in just two months’ time there will be nothing left

Photographed at the weekend at a demolition yard in Aliaga, western Turkey, in just two months’ time there will be nothing left.

Images show the last working aircraft carrier at its final stages, with just a small section of the ship left to cut up.

It will be stripped down, with nuts, bolts and steel ripped off, and eventually turned into everything from bridge foundations to cooking utensils.

Formally decommissioned in 2014, the Invincible-class carrier – the last of its kind – was sold for £2.1million to Turkish company Leyal Ship Recycling Ltd.

A team from the company have been dismantling the warship, used as a landing platform for fighter jets, for several months.

The firm also scrapped aircraft carrier HMS Royal Ark and HMS Invincible, with British tourists making holiday detours to visit the yard and watch from afar. 

Opened up: Images show the last working aircraft carrier at its final stages, with just a small section of the ship left to cut up

Opened up: Images show the last working aircraft carrier at its final stages, with just a small section of the ship left to cut up

Broken down: The once great ship will be stripped down, with nuts, bolts and steel ripped off, and eventually turned into everything from bridge foundations to cooking utensils

Broken down: The once great ship will be stripped down, with nuts, bolts and steel ripped off, and eventually turned into everything from bridge foundations to cooking utensils

Swan song: Formally decommissioned in 2014, the Invincible-class carrier is pictured coming into Portsmouth after being sold for £2.1million to Turkish company Leyal Ship Recycling Ltd

Swan song: Formally decommissioned in 2014, the Invincible-class carrier is pictured coming into Portsmouth after being sold for £2.1million to Turkish company Leyal Ship Recycling Ltd

Royal commission: Her Majesty the Queen, in company with Commodore Tom Cunningham RN, inspects the Royal Guard of Honour onboard HMS Illustrious

Royal commission: Her Majesty the Queen, in company with Commodore Tom Cunningham RN, inspects the Royal Guard of Honour onboard HMS Illustrious

All the materials it buys are recycled, and ships are often used in construction and for building new ships.

The sale came despite proposals to turn the carrier into a floating hotel, museum, or even a UK centre for powerboats.

NUMBERS BEHIND THE HISTORIC CARRIER

The Royal Navy warship was the fifth to be named Illustrious

At 690ft, it weighed 22,000 tons, equal to 1,740 double-decker buses

Top speed: 35mph

Crew: 685

Spent 32 years in service – commissioned June 1982, decommissioned August 2014

Completion brought forward to be rushed into Falklands War. Also deployed in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Sierra Leone conflicts

Distance travelled: Over 100,000 miles, equal to four times round the globe

Aircraft carried: Harrier jets until 2010; then up to 22 helicopters, including Apache and Chinook

In 2013 it took 500 tons of relief aid to Philippines after typhoon Haiyan

Its departure left the Royal Navy without a fixed-wing aircraft carrier until the first of the next £6.2billion generation of carriers, the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.

The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth will be commissioned later this year, but will become operational along with HMS Prince of Wales in 2020.

Sailors of all ranks from ratings to admirals joined hundreds of people to wave off HMS Illustrious in December.

By then it was shadow of its former glory with its paint peeling and engines ripped out, and was pulled by a tug out into the Solent.

Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, former First Sea Lord and commanding officer of Illustrious, said it was a ‘sad day’ at the time.

Illustrious was the last of the Invincible class of aircraft carriers, also including the Ark Royal and Invincible, which were introduced into the Navy in the 1980s.

Following the retirement of the Harrier aircraft in 2010, Illustrious went on to serve as one of the Navy’s two helicopter carriers. 

The carrier, which was built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978, had its entry into service brought forward so it could assist in the Falklands War effort.

The warship’s deployment was so rushed that its commissioning ceremony took place at sea en route to the Falklands on June 20, 1982.

It was formally commissioned on its return.

During the conflict, it replaced sister ship HMS Invincible in providing a floating airfield for aircraft unable to use the islands’ damaged RAF base.

Destroyers: A team from the Turkish company Leyal Ship Recycling Ltd have been dismantling the warship, used as a landing platform for fighter jets, for several months

Destroyers: A team from the Turkish company Leyal Ship Recycling Ltd have been dismantling the warship, used as a landing platform for fighter jets, for several months

Fond farewell: People waved goodbye to Illustrious from the beach at Old Portsmouth as she sailed away to HM Naval Base for the last time in 2014

Fond farewell: People waved goodbye to Illustrious from the beach at Old Portsmouth as she sailed away to HM Naval Base for the last time in 2014

Illustrious then went on to support British forces in Afghanistan, served in the Bosnian and Sierra Leone conflicts, and also helped evacuate Britons during the Lebanon war in 2006.

In 2013, Illustrious was involved in the efforts to distribute disaster relief in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Last week a report warned a shortage of sailors in the Royal Navy could put Britain’s new carriers at ‘considerable risk’.

The report by the National Audit Office said plans to have the two largest ever UK warships seaworthy by the end of 2020 could be hit with even greater delays due to understaffing and a raft of ‘technical issues which have yet to be resolved’.



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