The UK is selling an old aircraft carrier for scrap as its navy declines


hms illustrious

US Navy Photo

The UK Royal Navy Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R 06), and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Harry S. Truman and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in 2007.

The UK Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday that it would sell the HMS Illustrious for scrap to a Turkish company called LEYAL Ship Recycling Ltd. for about $2.5 million, after trying and failing to repurpose the ship as a museum.


"We have done all we can for over two years to find a home for the former HMS Illustrious in the UK, and regrettably all options have now been exhausted," UK Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said in a statement.

Unfortunately, the sale of the Illustrious coincides with an overall decline in Britain's naval and military power at large.

In an essay written at Reuters, David Axe details a decades-long decline in money and attention spent on maintaining the Royal Navy.

hms illustrious harrier jet

SAC Oldfield/MOD

A Harrier GR9 aircraft is pictured landing onboard HMS Illustrious at sea. Though the UK developed the Harrier jet, they decommissioned the last ones in 2010.


Indeed the Royal Navy, once the greatest in the world, has declined precipitously and no longer even employs fighter jets. The entire fleet stands at just 89 ships and one helicopter carrier, after the Illustrious was decommissioned in 2014. In comparison, the US has 11 helicopter carriers, and 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the need for stabilizing naval presences has been growing. The Royal Navy has had repeated run ins with Russian ships that patrol the Atlantic and North Sea in the greatest uptick of covert submarine activity seen since the Cold War.

Both the US and France have sent carriers to the Mediterranean to combat ISIS, and British jets do participate in the fighting, but not from their own flat tops.

Earlier this month, a report leaked to the Times newspaper said that the British army would be "vulnerable" in the battlefield against Russia and that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have a "significant capability edge" in state-on-state warfare.


REUTERS/U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Handout

Two US Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters complete vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) during operational testing May 18, 2015.


Currently, the Royal Navy awaits the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, which will support F-35B multi-role fighters and will hopefully help improve the capabilities of the Royal Navy. The Illustrious is slated to ship off to Turkey this fall.

"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," Mike Utley, former Commanding Officer on HMS Illustrious, said in a statement.

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