Portsmouth-based HMS Illustrious stops over in the Shetlands

VISIT HMS Illustrious
VISIT HMS Illustrious
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AIRCRAFT carrier HMS Illustrious made a surprise visit to the Shetland Islands after coming out of a £40m refit.

The Portsmouth-based warship is on sea trials following her departure from Rosyth dockyard last week.

Shetland Islanders were stunned to see the 22,000-ton carrier off their shores.

Roy Longmuir said: ‘Locals were astonished when the huge carrier steamed into the shelter of Noness and Levenwick and dropped anchor for the night.

‘It’s fantastic to see such a fine ship in the most northerly part of the British Isles.’

Illustrious, which has been converted into a helicopter carrier in light of the government’s decision to axe the navy’s Harrier jump jets, is due to make her way home to Portsmouth early next month.

She spent 16 months in refit in Scotland and will be the on-call helicopter carrier from next summer available to deploy anywhere in the world.

Current plans are for her to be decommissioned in 2014 once HMS Ocean comes out of refit – leaving the navy without a carrier capable of launching fast jets until two new supercarriers arrive from 2019.