BRITAIN’S last working aircraft carrier is set to make her final journey from Portsmouth bound for a Turkish scrapyard later this week.
Final preparations are being made to the former HMS Illustrious for the voyage on Wednesday.
Weather depending, she is expected to leave Portsmouth at 9.30am – passing the Round Tower at 9.45am.
The News is planning to cover Lusty’s departure live on Facebook, with rolling coverage expected to begin at 9.25am.
Illustrious, affectionately known as Lusty, was rushed into service at the tail-end of the Falklands War, commissioned at sea in 1982.
The last of the Invincible-class aircraft carriers, Illustrious could be armed with Harrier jump jets and attack helicopter.
She remained a key naval asset for 32 years, serving in the Falklands War and the Gulf War, sailing more than 900,000 miles.
The ship was involved in the Bosnian, Iraq and Sierra Leone conflicts and helped to evacuate Brits during the Lebanon war in 2006.
Lusty was also part of the UK’s humanitarian effort in the wake of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, carrying more than 500 tonnes of life-saving aid to victims in the Philippines in 2013.
She was retired in 2014 and has remained moored at Portsmouth Naval Base ever since.
Her final years were marred by controversy after the Ministry of Defence refused plans to preserve her naval museum or floating hotel.
Last month, a last-ditch effort, made by veterans to save her from the scrapyard, was rejected – despite the government being offered £15m.
Illustrious will leave for the Leyal Ship Recycling and Dismantling company in Aliaga, Turkey.
It is the same yard which scrapped her sister ships Ark Royal and Invincible.
The former HMS Invincible was sold for about £2m in 2011, while Ark Royal fetched £2.9m in 2013. Illustrious is being scrapped for £2.1m.
Speaking to The News earlier this year, David Rogers, vice chairman of the HMS Illustrious Association, said: ‘We’re all very sad it’s come to this obviously, but I think it was an inevitability.’
While Illustrious’s former commanding officer, Mike Utley said: ‘Lusty provided a world-class service to the Royal Navy for over three decades. We will bid her farewell with a heavy heart but in the knowledge that everything has been done to find a use for her.
‘As the former aircraft carrier gets ready to leave Portsmouth, so we can look to the future and the arrival of the new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, which will ensure that the Royal Navy continues to be a pre-eminent maritime power in the modern world.’
The first of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is expected to arrive in Portsmouth in spring next year.
Sister ship HMS Prince of Wales is expected to arrive in 2019.
The 65,000-tonne warships are the largest vessels ever built by the Royal Navy.