Anybody in the market for a full-size aircraft carrier? The Royal Navy’s last working aircraft carrier, the HMS Illustrious, is going up for auction, though, as the BBC reports, only for scrap.
The Illustrious is the last fully-functioning ship in the Royal Navy that dates to the Falklands War. First commissioned back in 1982, the massive ship, which is capable of supporting over a thousand crew members and dozens of aircraft at a time, the ship ended up traveling almost a million miles during its operational career. It was rushed to completion to serve at the end of the Falklands War, and went on to provide support during the Iraqi conflicts of the 1990s and to maintain a no-fly zone during conflicts in Bosnia. The ship came to be known as “Lusty” among the crew. She was finally decommissioned in 2014, and has been moored in a Portsmouth Harbor ever since.
Ever since the ship was decommissioned, the Ministry of Defence has been hearing proposals from cities that wanted to turn the ship into a giant museum, but the prohibitive costs of upkeep and operation have shot down every one. Now the Illustrious is being auctioned off for recycling purposes, which will likely lead to the ship being broken down for scrap. One of the Illustrious’ sister ships, the HMS Invincible was similarly sold for scrap back in 2011 for £2 million. However, if a viable preservation option appears before the sale, the ship could still be saved.
As noted in story in the Telegraph, the HMS Illustrious Association, which has been looking after the ship in the interim, sees the sale as unfortunate but inevitable. Vice Chairman of the association, David Rogers, who once served on the ship said, “She was probably built to last 20 years and she lasted for 32. Keeping her would be an enormous cost.”
Whatever fate befalls the Illustrious, Britain will be without a fully-functioning aircraft carrier until the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which could be put into service as soon as next year.