THIS WEEK IN 1980: Invincible shows the shape of ships to come

Captain Michael Livesay signing the ship on for service during the ceremony at Portsmouth naval base
Captain Michael Livesay signing the ship on for service during the ceremony at Portsmouth naval base
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The biggest, ‘tidiest’ and most formidable ship to sign on for Royal Navy service in the previous 25 years, HMS Invincible heralded a new era in warship design.

The first carrier to be custom-built for vertical take-off jets, she was to be followed into service by two sister ships, Illustrious and Ark Royal.

After the post-war years in which warship designers concentrated on diminishing dimensions, the emphasis was to restore size and Invincible, towering mightily above other members of the fleet at Portsmouth naval base, showed the shape of things to come.

Within a few months she would be equipped with nine Sea King helicopters and five Sea Harriers, although her commanding officer, Captain Michael Livesay, estimated she could have carried more than 20 aircraft in wartime.

Although Invincible had been described from the outset of her construction as a ‘through-deck cruiser’, the senior service conceded she was a true aircraft carrier.

First impression of her company was that Invincible had the neatest and tidiest design layout of any ship to join the fleet.