THE former HMS Illustrious is to be sold for scrap after attempts to preserve her as a floating museum and heritage site collapsed.
Scrap dealers are being asked to ‘recycle’ the 22,000-tonne aircraft carrier, the Ministry of Defence admitted yesterday afternoon.
It comes despite repeated assurances by the MoD to The News that there were no plans to scrap the Invincible class carrier.
The revelation effectively means there is now no realistic chance of saving the iconic 689ft-long ship.
The news has saddened members of the HMS Illustrious Association.
David Rogers is the vice-chairman of the group and served aboard Illustrious as an air traffic controller in 1982 and 1986.
It’s extremely sad news to hear as it’s now almost a 100 per cent certainty that she will be disposed ofDavid Rogers, vice-chairman HMS Illustrious Association
‘It’s extremely sad news to hear as it’s now almost a 100 per cent certainty that she will be disposed of,’ he said.
‘She was only built to last about 20 years and she has lasted for 32. So keeping her would have been extremely expensive.
‘It’s a shame the ship couldn’t be saved for the nation. But the last thing we would want to see is her rotting in her moorings like HMS Bronington.’
The ship, affectionately known as Lusty, is likely to follow her sister carriers and be sent to Turkey for scrap.
HMS Ark Royal was scrapped for £2.8m in 2013, while HMS Invincible was sold for about £2m two years earlier.
In February Falklands veteran Steve Hale, of Portsmouth, told The News Lusty was due to arrive at Turkish shipping company Leyal Gemi Söküm Ltd recycling facility later this year.
However, the MoD denied this at the time, saying it was still working on other options.
Yesterday an MoD official said it was still open to heritage bids for the leviathan.
The spokeswoman said: ‘We have done all we can for over two years to find a home for the former HMS Illustrious in the UK and regrettably no suitable bidder has come forward.
‘While it is a difficult decision, we have announced an open competition for the recycling of Illustrious, while remaining open to heritage options.’
Illustrious is moored at the Portsmouth Naval Base.
During her career she has sailed 900,000 miles on operations across the globe, including the aftermath of the Falklands War, helping maintain a no-fly zone in Bosnia in the 1990s and then again in the Arabian Gulf in 1998.
She also helped with the aid mission in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.
Bids must be in by May 23 with viewings in June, the Disposal Services Authority has said.