Britain’s cash-strapped military on Tuesday launched a search for buyers for its sole remaining aircraft carrier, saying it would entertain bids from companies, charities and trusts.
The ageing, battle-worn HMS Illustrious – 210 metres long and 22,000 tonnes – is one of the Royal Navy’s best-known symbols. It has ferried equipment during the Gulf War and supported evacuations of British nationals from Sierra Leone over the past 32 years.
Bidders do not need to be British but the buyer has to keep all or part of the ship in Britain for heritage purposes, a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said on Tuesday. It did not define how big a “part” of the ship must be.
The ship is one of the Invincible class built in the 1970s and 1980s. Two new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers are being built by a BAE Systems-led consortium, and the first will begin sea trials in 2017. Britain will have no aircraft carriers at sea in the meantime.
Amid major cuts in defence spending, the replacement of carriers has stirred controversy. The previous Labour government gave the green light in 2007 for the two new ships but the programme has been plagued by cost overruns and delays.
Full article: Warship for sale: Britain seeks buyer for old aircraft carrier (Reuters)