HMS Illustrious on her way home to Portsmouth after crash

COMING HOME HMS Illustrious when she left Portsmouth for the eight-week excercise in the Arctic.  (120399-4)
COMING HOME HMS Illustrious when she left Portsmouth for the eight-week excercise in the Arctic. (120399-4)
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THE Royal Navy has recalled HMS Illustrious from operations in Norway after a collision with a tug boat left her with two holes in her hull.

The News can reveal the warship will return to Portsmouth Naval Base on Sunday for repairs following an incident in the Norwegian port of Harstad last week.

The 22,000-tonne helicopter carrier was due to return home later this month after an eight-week deployment to train with other Nato warships in the Arctic Circle.

But her training schedule on Exercise Cold Response has been cut short for engineers to examine the damage.

It’s understood Illustrious was being escorted into port by four tug boats on March 9 when one of the tug boats collided with the carrier on her starboard side. The incident left the 30-year-old warship with two holes above the water line.

It is not known how large the holes are, but after initial repairs at the scene Lusty took part in training operations in blizzard conditions for the next five days before a decision was made to bring her back home early.

It comes just nine months after the warship returned from a £40m refit which saw the Invincible-class aircraft carrier emerge in a new helicopter carrier role.

Sources say the Arctic deployment was an essential part of the ship’s regeneration to front-line operations ahead of her being Britain’s on-call carrier later this year.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: ‘There was a berthing incident on March 9 in Norway. Minor repairs were done in situ and allowed HMS Illustrious to complete five days of exercises.

‘While she could have continued to participate in Exercise Cold Response, the decision was taken to return her to Portsmouth so that the repairs could be completed to ensure that her future programme can be achieved.’

Ship repair specialists from BAE Systems are understood to be on stand-by to inspect the hull damage after Lusty comes into Portsmouth on Sunday afternoon.

She is due to pass the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth at around 2.15pm.