After celebrating 25 years in the fleet commission at a special ceremony attended by HM The Queen in Portsmouth on November 5, the British Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal is sailing into the Clyde on her final voyage. The Invincible class carrier was considered in the Fleet reductions required under Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) and Ark will now retire gracefully having delivered a quarter of a century of proud and sterling service to the country. Her role as the current Royal Navy flagship will initially be taken on by amphibious assault ship HMS Albion in early December. Royal Navy carriers will again lead the navy as the new Queen Elizabeth class carriers become operational.
At the Clyde the ‘Mighty Ark’ will dispense its ammunition at Glen Mallan Jetty on Loch Long. Her farewell voyage will take her around the north of Scotland, before she makes a short journey down the north east coast of England and into Newcastle, where she was built by Swan Hunters at Wallsend.
“There is no question that there is a certain amount of sadness attached to this final deployment,” said Commanding Officer, Captain Jerry Kyd. “But it is also an opportunity for us to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of this fine ship and for us to show her off once more. “She has played a very important role throughout her history and we have always been lucky enough to draw great affection and support from the British public wherever we go. Capt. Kyd said his very first job after finishing my initial officer training 25 years ago at Dartmouth was in the then brand new HMS Ark Royal.
The fifth vessel to bear the proud name, Ark Royal was launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 20 June 1981, accepted into service on 1 July 1985 and commissioned on November 1985. During her busy life the ship has seen service around the globe and has shown her adaptability from the original role as an anti-submarine helicopter carrier designed for the Cold War through to the Commando helicopter and carrier strike role of recent years. Ark’s operations have included playing a pivotal part of the NATO campaign during the Bosnia conflict and, in early 2003, leading the UK’s naval forces during Op Telic – the invasion of Iraq, with a fleet of helicopters embarked.
In 2010, HMS Ark Royal has led a large multi-national task force during Operation Auriga – a two months deployment simulating fighting off the eastern seaboard of the United States. During this mission the carrier and its air wing have demonstrated the versatility operating a wide range of aircraft, including Joint Force GR9 Harrier jets, US Marine Corps AV8B Harrier jets, as well as Chinook, Apache, Sea King, Merlin and Lynx helicopters.