FORMER Royal Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal will leave Portsmouth for the scrapyard next month, The News can reveal.
The Invincible-class carrier is headed for a Turkish scrap merchant after being left to rust in Portsmouth Naval Base for the last two years.
The Ministry of Defence says a date for her final departure has not yet been set, but The News understands it could be around mid-May.
There was national outrage when the government axed the famous warship in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, along with the navy’s 72 Harrier jump jets – sold to the US for around £110m.
Former naval officer Mike Critchley is the publisher of Warship World magazine.
He said: ‘The whole demise of HMS Ark Royal and her harriers has been a national disgrace.
‘The aircraft in particular were sold at a ridiculously low price, leaving us without any proper aviation capability.
‘There is nothing to plug the gap now until the Queen Elizabeth-class enters service and gets her aircraft.
‘I’m sure it will be a sad day. The ship has been affiliated with Portsmouth for most of her life.
‘This is the last time she will leave I’m sure a lot of people will be on the Round Tower to see her go.’
As reported in The News, there had been hopes HMS Ark Royal could be preserved as a museum ship, but the Ministry of Defence said she was in too poor a condition. Instead, HMS Illustrious will be preserved when she finishes active service.
Proposals to reuse HMS Ark Royal included turning her into a commercial heliport, a nightclub and school, or a casino. But ultimately the government decided to sell the 22,000-tonne carrier to ship recycling firm Leyal for £2.9m.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support department said: ‘Following a competition, HMS Ark Royal was sold to Leyal, a Turkish company.
‘Leyal will transport the ship to its shipyard in Turkey for recycling.
‘On current plans HMS Ark Royal is due to depart Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth in the coming weeks.’
Her sister ship, HMS Invincible, was towed to the same scrapyard in 2011.
During her service, HMS Ark Royal was deployed to the Adriatic during the Bosnian war and was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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