Planes will pass over Portsmouth to mark HMS Illustrious’ 30th birthday

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CELEBRATIONS are bring held at Portsmouth Naval Base this morning to mark 30 years since HMS Illustrious came into service.

The First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope and Illustrious’s commanding officer Capt Martin Connell will give speeches before historic naval aircraft perform a fly-past over the Invincible-Class aircraft carrier at midday.

Illustrious, known as Lusty, has sailed almost 900,000 nautical miles during the past three decades.

The sister ship of HMS Ark Royal and HMS Invincible, she is currently Britain’s only aircraft carrier.

However, after the 2010 defence cuts took the Harrier jump jets out of service, Lusty’s role has been reconfigured to helicopter carrier.

For the past year, she has been operating with Army Apache helicopters, armed with Hellfire missiles, on her flight deck.

This was the case last month when the warship took part in Exercise Joint Warrior, major international war games off the coast of Scotland.

The government has announced the 22,000-tonne warship will leave service in 2014 – despite recently spending £40m on a refit.

But before she is decommissioned, the navy says Lusty will be the UK’s on-call helicopter carrier, ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice.