Replacements are years away and still Britain’s last aircraft carrier, ‘HMS Illustrious,’ has set sail to be scrapped in Turkey. The vessel, known as 'Lusty,' came into service in 1982 and was rushed into service to catch the lattermost stages of the Falklands War. She also served in the Gulf Wars and Sierra Leone conflict. It was one of three Invincible-class ships commissioned in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
A last attempt to raise enough money to turn the carrier into a floating museum failed in November and it will now be scrapped at the LEYAL shipyard in Turkey. The UK’s two Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are currently under construction. HMS Elizabeth is not due to come into service until 2020 and HMS Prince of Wales some years after.
But the Royal Navy has other concerns besides aircraft carriers. In November alone it was reported that no replacements had been planned for the Royal Navy’s standard shipboard missile system, the Harpoon, and that the lack of warships was “woefully” low to the point of becoming a major security issue. A report by the National Audit Office also found that power cables at the Portsmouth base where the Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will be docked are more than 80 years old and that no funds exist to improve them.
In late November, one of the Royal Navy’s cutting-edge Type 45 destroyers had to be towed back to port just two days after setting off to take part in NATO exercises. ‘HMS Duncan’ is believed to have suffered total propulsion failure, forcing it back into Plymouth harbor.
Despite the force’s decline, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones said that “at the height of Empire and beyond” the navy had “always been the guardian of maritime trade” and that it was “naval power that opened China and Japan to Western markets.” He added that “as the government looks to extend the UK’s economic partnerships, as signified by the creation of a new Department for International Trade in the last two weeks, the Royal Navy’s role in supporting prosperity rises to the fore once more.”