|HMS Illustrious was a light aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy and the second of three Invincible-class ships constructed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was the fifth warship and second aircraft carrier to bear the name Illustrious, and was affectionately known to her crew as “Lusty”.
In 1982, the conflict in the Falklands necessitated that Illustrious be completed and rushed south to join her sister ship HMS Invincible and the veteran carrier HMS Hermes. To this end, she was brought forward by three months for completion at Swan Hunter Shipyard, then commissioned on 20 June 1982 at sea en-route to Portsmouth Dockyard to take on board extra stores and crew. She arrived in the Falklands to relieve Invincible on 28 August 1982 in a steam past. Returning to the United Kingdom, she was not formally commissioned into the fleet until 20 March 1983.
Following the retirement of her fixed-wing British Aerospace Harrier II aircraft in 2010, Illustrious operated as one of two Royal Navy helicopter carriers. By 2014 she was the oldest ship in the Royal Navy’s active fleet (having 32 years’ service) and will not be replaced until HMS Queen Elizabeth is commissioned in 2017. The UK Ministry of Defence announced on 10 September 2012 that once decommissioned, Illustrious would be preserved for the nation. Illustrious was formally decommissioned on 28 August 2014. On 6 May 2016, the MOD’s Disposal Authority placed a notice for the potential sale of HMS Illustrious.
In mid-2003, the ship underwent a refit at Rosyth Dockyard. This refit involved the total rebuild of the ski jump, the adding of better communications and reconfiguring the ship so that it can be more quickly switched between the light aircraft carrier and helicopter carrier roles. The refit should have enable her to carry on until 2014, when it was expected that the first of the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers would come into service. Illustrious returned to Portsmouth following the completion of the refit in December 2004.
As part of Strategic Defence and Security Review, and in addition to the axing of the Harrier force and Illustrious’s sister ship Ark Royal, it was announced that a short study would be carried out to determine whether Illustrious or Ocean was the most viable helicopter platform. The decision was subsequently made to retain Ocean for the longer term. In May 2011 Illustrious was made operational after a £40 million refit, and she was handed back to the fleet after sea trials in late July 2011. She took over the helicopter carrier role while Ocean underwent a planned refit, due for completion by 2014; Illustrious was then be withdrawn from service. The Ministry of Defence also announced that Illustrious, as the last of the Invincible-class aircraft carriers, will be preserved as a memorial “in recognition of the service given by these ships in protecting the UK over the last 30 years”.
Illustrious was briefly berthed at Rosyth in the first week of July 2014, in a dock adjacent to HMS Queen Elizabeth, for the naming ceremony of Queen Elizabeth on 4 July 2014; she left Rosyth the following day. She arrived back at HMNB Portsmouth on 22 July at the end of active service. She was decommissioned at HMNB Portsmouth on 28 August 2014. The Royal Navy hopes to preserve the ship, and in August 2014 it was reported that Kingston upon Hull and two other cities had submitted bids for her.
Marmac Services Ltd were engaged to provide small bore pipework and air conditioning together with voyage repairs and joinery works.