HMS Illustrious (R06): Wikis


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HMS Illustrious 1.jpg
Career (United Kingdom)
Ordered: 14 May 1976
Builder: Swan Hunter
Laid down: 7 October 1976
Launched: 14 December 1978
Sponsored by: Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Commissioned: 20 June 1982
Homeport: HMNB Portsmouth
Motto: Vox Non Incerta (Latin: No Uncertain Sound)
Nickname: Lusty
Status: in active service, as of 2010
Notes: Pennant number: R06
Deck code: L
International callsign: GVUH[1]
Badge: Ship's badge
General characteristics
Displacement: 22,000 tons
Length: 686 ft (209 m)
Beam: 118 ft (36 m)
Draught: 25 ft (7.6 m)
Propulsion: 4 × Rolls-Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbines providing 97, 000 hp (75 MW)
8 Paxman Valenta diesel generators.
Speed: 30 knots (56 km/h), 18 knots (33 km/h) cruising
Range: 5, 000 nautical miles at 18 knots (9, 300 km at 33 km/h)
Complement: 685 crew
366 Fleet Air Arm
Armament: 3 × Goalkeeper CIWS
2 × GAM-B01 20 mm close-range guns
Aircraft carried: Harrier GR.7/9 fighter/bombers; Sea King ASaC, Merlin HM Mk.1 helicopters

HMS Illustrious (R06) is the second of three Invincible-class light aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is the fifth warship and second aircraft carrier to be called Illustrious, and is affectionately known as Lusty to her crew. She just missed the Falklands Conflict, but was deployed to Iraq and Bosnia in the 1990s and to Sierra Leone in 2000. A massive re-fit in 2002 meant that she missed the Iraq War, but she was finished in time to assist British Citizens trapped by the war in Lebanon. She will be replaced by HMS Queen Elizabeth.[2]



She was laid down at Swan Hunter on the River Tyne in 1976, and launched in 1978. As the ship neared the end of its fitting out period, the Falklands War broke out. As a consequence, work on Illustrious was greatly speeded up. The war was won before Illustrious could be finished, but she did perform a useful service in the aftermath. Until the RAF airfield on the Falkland Islands was repaired, an aircraft carrier was required on station to protect the area from possible Argentine attack. Invincible had been on station for many months when Illustrious steamed to its relief. However, Illustrious was needed so quickly that the ship was actually commissioned whilst underway. After the RAF airfield was repaired, Illustrious returned to the UK for a full shakedown cruise and workup period, with a formal commissioning on 20 March 1983.


The ship saw no further action during the remainder of the decade, but continued to be a valuable asset for the Royal Navy in showing the flag and participating in exercises all around the world. During those years, the ship received several enhancements during refits, including a ski-jump with a steeper angle to enable the Harriers in the air wing to take-off with a larger payload. During an 'Extended Defect and Maintenance Period', numerous modifications were made to the ship including the removal of her Sea Dart missile defences at a cost of twelve million pounds. This allowed for extra deck space that enables her to carry up to 22 aircraft, including the Harrier GR.7.

In mid-2003, the ship entered a further refit at Rosyth Dockyard. This refit involved the total rebuild of the ski jump, the adding of better communications and reconfiguring the ship so that it can be more quickly switched between the light aircraft carrier and helicopter carrier roles. The refit should enable her to carry on until 2014, when it is expected that the first of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will come into service. Illustrious returned to Portsmouth following the completion of the refit in December 2004.

She was re-dedicated in 2005, and following the death of the ship's original sponsor Princess Margaret, her daughter Lady Sarah Chatto agreed to attend in a new role as Ship's Friend[3].

Operations and deployments



Illustrious (r) and the American USS John C. Stennis in the Persian Gulf in 1998

During the 1990s, the main task of the aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy was helping to maintain the no-fly zone over Bosnia during the war there. All three of the navy's carriers rotated through the area. In 1998 she operated in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, the Anglo-Saudi-American enforcement of the no-fly-zone over Southern Iraq.

In 2000 she led Task Group 342.1, a naval task force comprising HM ships - Ocean, Argyll, Iron Duke, Chatham and numerous RFA ships in Operation Palliser, which was aimed at restoring peace and stability to Sierra Leone.

A notable combat deployment for the ship took place in late 2001. A large British exercise, Saif Sareea II took place in Oman in the autumn of 2001. During the exercise, the World Trade Center was destroyed by Al-Qaeda. Illustrious remained in theatre while other elements of the task force returned to the United Kingdom. Illustrious had elements of the Royal Marines on board, ready for possible combat operations in Afghanistan.[4] No deployment was made before Illustrious was relieved by Ocean in early 2002.


HMS Illustrious along with HMS Gloucester helped in the evacuation of British citizens from Beirut as a result of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon crisis. Later that year, as part of the Royal Navy's Remembrance Day activities, HMS Illustrious sailed up the River Thames on Friday 10 November 2006. She was moored at Wood Wharf, a few hundred yards upriver from the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London, until Wednesday 15 November. Whilst there, the Falklands War commemorative events in 2007 were announced on board her.[5]


Illustrious in Tallinn Old City Harbour, Estonia, May 2007

Illustrious carried out two weeks of fixed wing flying serials exercises in the North Sea 20 miles (32 km) off Hartlepool in March 2007, during which seven GR9 Harriers from IV (Four) Squadron Joint Force Harrier touched down on her flight-deck.[6] Also during these exercises, seven of her crew had to be airlifted to hospital in Middlesbrough on 13 March suffering from fume inhalation and throat and eye irritation after an accident with chemicals in cleaning a junior ratings' toilet area. Illustrious sailed on to Portsmouth, where they rejoined her on leaving hospital.[7]

From 25 to 30 May 2007, after an exercise in the Baltic Sea, Illustrious was the first British aircraft carrier ever to dock in Tallinn, Estonia. The visit provided rest for the ship's crew after the Baltic exercise, acted as a diplomatic visit, and also involved naval and air exercises with the Estonian Defence Forces.[8]

Next, in July 2007, Illustrious took part in a US-led Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFX) off the eastern coast of the United States (for which she took on-board 14 US Harrier jets and 200 US Marines) before returning to Portsmouth the following month.[9]


The carrier set sail from Portsmouth on 21 January 2008 as head of the multi-national Task Group 328.01,[10] under Operation Orion 08, which from January to May 2008 carried out exercises and diplomatic visits to twenty ports in the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East, and south-east Asia. However, on 23 January, whilst still off the coast of southern England, she sailed back to Portsmouth for repairs to a minor fault in a meat freezer. It was felt to be important to repair this before sailing to a warmer climate, and Navy spokesman Anton Hanney stated that flying in an emergency plumber whilst she was underway would be more expensive than turning back whilst Illustrious was still in the English Channel. She sailed back out at 1pm on 24th[11] and made up the lost 24 hours.[12][13][14] Her ports of call included Valletta, Malta 26–29 February 2008.[15][16]

This 2008 assignment was filmed and shown on Channel 5 as the 6-part tv documentary Warship transmitted on Mondays from May 19, 2008[17][18]. This documentary aimed to show life on-board the now-ageing carrier in much the same way that the Ark Royal was shown in the 1976 Sailor. HMS Illustrious was commanded by ex-Chatham commanding officer Captain Steve Chick CBE BSc, who had also commanded HMS Chatham during the 2005 BBC documentary named Shipmates.

By the end of July, she had returned to Portsmouth where she took part in the 2008 navy open-day. She proved to be popular with visitors and the queue to tour her was long. On-board, she displayed a life-size model of the F-35B Joint Combat Aircraft which will replace the Harriers currently used by the ship. She was the only aircraft carrier to be part of the event, although the inactive HMS Invincible was also visible to the public.

On 17 October she, along with HMS Cattistock, sailed into Liverpool where she was open to the public on Saturday 18 October.

On 4 November she dropped anchor at Greenwich, arriving to take central part in the Royal Navy's remembrance week. The F-35 mock-up remained on deck.


On 7 May 2009, she returned to Greenwich to serve as the centre piece of the Royal Navy's celebration of a century of British naval aviation, aboard were examples of all the Navy's operational helicopters. It is reported that this will be the last time a British Carrier will visit London, since the Invincible class will soon be retired with future carriers being too big to journey up river.

Beginning on 8 June, she took part in the exercise Loyal Arrow in northern Sweden. The exercise lasted until June 16.

On 17 June 2009, she arrived in Tallinn, where on 20 June a game between Sharks and the British warship HMS Illustrious rugby football teams was held.

On the 27th of June 2009 she was in the harbour of Oslo, Norway.

On 22 October 2009 she arrived at Liverpool for a six day visit and moored at the cruise liner terminal at Princes Dock. There was a Fly Past along The River Mersey on 23 October as part of its celebrations to mark this year’s Centenary of Naval Aviation. HMS Illustrious was open to members of the public on 25-26 October and left Liverpool on 27 October 2009.



  1. ^ "Royal Navy Bridge Card, February 2009". Retrieved 2009-06-20.  
  2. ^ HMS Illustrious:Aircraft Carriers:Surface Fleet:Operations and Support:Royal Navy web-site
  3. ^ HMS Illustrious and Lady Sarah Chatto
  4. ^ Graves, David (30 September 2001). "Illustrious to take command in Swift Sword manoeuvres". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  5. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (14 November 2006). "Falklands war to be remembered over four days". The Guardian.,,1947098,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  6. ^ "Harriers touch down on HMS Illustrious". Ministry of Defence. 12 March 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  7. ^ "Airlift for carrier sailors overcome by fumes". The Guardian. 16 March 2007.,,2035254,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  8. ^ "HMS Illustrious in Tallinn". Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 30 May 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  9. ^ "US Marines embark Harriers onto HMS Illustrious". Ministry of Defence. 17 July 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  10. ^ Richard Scott, 'ASW Resurfaces,' Jane's Defence Weekly, Volume 45, Issue 24, 11 June 2008, p.25
  11. ^ Harbour Watch - Portsmouth Today
  12. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (24 January 2008). "Dodgy freezer halts carrier". The Guardian.,,2245661,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  13. ^ "Chill Out! Navy Ship's Fridge Is Wonky". Sky News. 23 January 2008.,,30100-1302053,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-24.  
  14. ^ All news : RN Live : News and Events : Royal Navy
  15. ^ HMS Illustrious returns to Malta
  17. ^ All news : RN Live : News and Events : Royal Navy
  18. ^ Warship Documentary : HMS Illustrious : Aircraft Carriers : Surface Fleet : Operations and Support : Royal Navy

External links


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