The British Ministry of Defence has confirmed the sale of HMS Illustrious light aircraft carrier to Turkish company Leyal Ship Recycling for around £2 million.
It is anticipated that the former Royal Navy flagship will leave her base in 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.
Both Invincible and Ark Royal, the sister ships of Illustrious, were also recycled by the Turkish company.
In 32 years of 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 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, the ministry said.
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.”
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.”