HMS Illustrious Returns To Portsmouth

The aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious returns home to Portsmouth after a £40m refit.

The warship's spent the last few weeks doing sea trials after being fitted out to carry helicopters instead of planes.

Around 300 families will welcome home the ship at the naval base just after 5pm on Thursday, 7 July.

The 22,000 tonne ship, affectionately known as Lusty, was in the Rosyth dockyard in Fife, Scotland, for 16 months to turn her into a helicopter and commando carrier. Now the ship can carry up to 20 helicopters and 600 fully kitted-out personnel.

After returning to Portsmouth she will carry out further tests off the south coast before returning to the Royal Navy fleet at the end of July.

Commanding Officer Captain Jerry Kyd said:

''It is a great honour and tremendously exciting to bring this famous carrier, HMS Illustrious, back to her homeport of Portsmouth.  My magnificent crew have worked for many months away from family and friends, some for 18 months, and our return today is testament to their characteristic professionalism and commitment.

''The ship was fortunate to have had an excellent engineering refit with Babcock in Rosyth and yet again, our return to Portsmouth, on time and on budget, shows how the Royal Navy and British industry can work so successfully together to a common purpose.”

Lusty's work-out since leaving Scotland has included full power trials, which have tested the engines and propulsion. Weapon systems have been test-fired and communications, radars and computer systems have all been given a thorough test.

HMS Illustrious has also started a training programme for the crew, including exercises to test their reactions to emergencies such as fires and floods.