HMS Illustrious to be scrapped

From left, Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts, Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones, and Isle of Wight Council leader Jonathan Bacon sign the formal application for a Solent Combined Authority in 2016

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HMS Illustrious is to be axed, the government has announced.

The aircraft carrier follows the fate of her sister ship HMS Ark Royal after it was decided the younger amphibious ship HMS Ocean is better suited to see the navy through until the arrival of the new Queen Elizabeth supercarriers towards the end of the decade.

The decision, which was announced on the same day Harrier jets flew for the final time, comes as a result of the navy being without any jets until 2020.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review in October had decided a straight choice had to be made on whether to keep Illustrious or Ocean in a helicopter landing role.

As Illustrious is nearing the end of a 40m refit and Ocean is due a similar refit in 2012, it was thought the carrier would be the one to survive in a helicopter landing role.

However, the government decided Ocean's amphibious capability to launch landing craft meant she was more versatile to see the navy through until 2016.

In a written ministerial statement, Liam Fox, secretary of state for defence, said: 'We have decided that HMS Ocean should be retained to provide our Landing Platform Helicopter capability for the longer term.

'HMS Illustrious will be withdrawn from service in 2014, once HMS Ocean has emerged from a planned refit and been returned to a fully operational state.

'This will ensure that we retain the ability to deliver an amphibious intervention force from the sea and maintain an experienced crew to support the later introduction into service of the new Queen Elizabeth class carrier.'