IT’S time to let Lusty go in peace.
Vice-Admiral Bob Cooling – one of HMS Illustrious’ former commanding officers says that it’s too late to resurrect the Falklands veteran as a £15m heritage attraction.
A last-minute bid from a consortium of British businessmen emerged to purchase Illustrious – nicknamed Lusty – and turn her into a museum and hotel complex on the River Thames in London.
But Vice Adm Cooling says that the 22,000-ton ship is beyond recognition and that more than £20m would have to be spent in order to preserve and keep her afloat on the Thames.
He told The News: ‘It’s time we let Lusty go and stop creating false hope that we can keep her here.’
The government has previously sold the aircraft carrier to Turkish scrapyard Leyal Gemi Sokum for £2.1m.
It is time we let Lusty go and stop creating false hope that we can keep her here.Vice Admiral Bob Cooling
Vice Adm Cooling added: ‘Her 35-year hull is rotten and it would cost millions to keep her afloat.
‘She has been completely stripped out for spare parts in preparation for scrapping. Her interior is unrecognisable. She has lost her soul.’
The Ministry of Defence invited bids to preserve Lusty three years ago but despite interest from various parties, none proved to be viable.
Lusty is the last Invicible-class carrier left and covered more than 900,000 nautical miles between 1982 and 2014 before she was decommissioned.
Vice Adm Cooling said: ‘Lusty served the nation superbly.
‘We have missed the opportunity to preserve her and now it is time to let her go in as dignified a way as possible and turn our attention to her successor HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Former Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The ministers made their decision that she should be scrapped and that decision has been and gone.
‘If they are going to reconsider the plan, it’s going to have to be a really good reason.’
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North’s MP wished the new bid well but said that Vice Adm Cooling was right in looking to the navy’s future.
She said: ‘It would be great to be able to find a second life for Lusty, not least because I’m always keen to promote our maritime history, and I’m sure many feel that way.
‘However, it cannot be done at the expense of the current defence budget and any privately-financed solution needs to be able to maintain her properly.
‘There have been many interested parties but none to date has been able to get their business case to stack up.
‘I wish this new venture well but her ex-commanding officer is right that we look to the future of the Royal Navy and the new super carriers which will continue Lusty’s legacy.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said of the new bid: ‘This proposal was made three months after the contract was awarded to recycle the ship.
‘To cancel the sale agreement at this late stage would be very expensive for the UK taxpayer. We are now looking to the future of the Royal Navy with the arrival of the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier due in spring 2017.
The News understands that Lusty has not been towed out yet due to delays in arranging civilian tug boats.