THE captain of Britain’s last remaining aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, said his warship is ‘raring to go’ after she came out of a £40m refit in Scotland.
Workers in Rosyth have adapted the 22,000-ton warship into a helicopter carrier following last year’s decision to axe the navy’s Harrier jump jets.
She left Rosyth dockyard yesterday and will conduct sea trials in UK waters before arriving home to Portsmouth in July to rejoin the fleet.
Commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd said it was an ‘historic day’, adding: ‘We are now raring to go, ready to take this great ship to sea for trials and then home to Portsmouth, where we will prepare for her exciting future role.’
Following a 16-month refit, Illustrious can carry a force of up to 20 helicopters and 600 personnel.
She still has a ski ramp on her flight deck for planes to use during take-off – but the Ministry of Defence denied speculation a small number of Harrier jets could be brought back into service.
The ship will undergo further sea trials before taking over as the on-call helicopter carrier when HMS Ocean goes in for a refit next year.
When Ocean returns in 2014, Illustrious will be decommissioned – following the exit of her sister ships Invincible and Ark Royal. Invincible is being scrapped in Turkey and Ark Royal is for sale.