heritage chiefs in Portsmouth want a leading role in saving HMS Illustrious from the scrapyard, The News can reveal.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday announced its desire to see the Royal Navy aircraft carrier ‘preserved for non-military use’ when she leaves service in 2014.
It comes after the military decided to sell Lusty’s sister ship HMS Ark Royal to a Turkish scrap firm for £3m.
The Ark – which was controversially axed in the 2010 defence cuts – will suffer the same fate as fellow carrier HMS Invincible and be broken up by Leyal Ship Recycling in Izmir, Turkey.
But it’s hoped the Illustrious – which recently had a £40m refit – can be spared as a lasting tribute to Britain’s famous Invincible Class warships which served in the Falklands, Bosnia and Iraq.
Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, chairman of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), called the plan to save Lusty a ‘laudable aim’.
The former First Sea Lord, who was captain of the carrier from 1998 to 2000, told The News: ‘It’s an interesting proposal and I would like to hear a lot more about it.
‘If the feeling was to have a heavy heritage angle to it, then I’m sure the NMRN would be very interested in making sure that the proposal had some substance and was sensible.
‘If there was a private benefactor wanting to buy the ship and preserve it as a naval museum piece, they would have to have a relationship with the NMRN.’
The Portsmouth-based museum, set up by the MoD in 2009, took over HMS Victory earlier this year in a £50m deal with car park entrepreneur Sir Donald Gosling.
Sir Jonathon said it was too early to say if Lusty could go on display in Portsmouth, but he’s keen that the NMRN has a stake in determining the 30-year-old ship’s future.
He said: ‘It will be interesting to see what (interest) it gets. The NMRN would certainly have a view.
‘At least now there’s warning in advance so people who might wish to see something happen can think ahead and we are not running late on the issue.’
Defence minister Philip Dunne told MPs: ‘It is our preference to see HMS Illustrious preserved intact as a lasting tribute to the service personnel who served on all three of the carriers.
‘We will invite a range of organisations, including private sector companies, charities and trusts to put forward viable proposals to ensure that HMS Illustrious remains intact and available for future private use while still offering taxpayers value for money.’
The minister added that scrapping Ark Royal was ‘the most viable option’.