Invincible Force - HMS Invincible, Illustrious, Ark Royal
Invincible Class aircraft carriers HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious & HMS Ark Royal
The scrapping of the next generation of British aircraft carriers in 1966 led to the further development of the “Through-deck Command Cruiser”. This ship was smaller than the standard carriers of the day and would initially carry helicopters for ASW and SAR duties around the fleet. The success of the Hawker Harrier meant that a fixed-wing fighter arm could be used in conjunction with the helicopter force, requiring only the fitting of a ‘Ski-jump’ to the forward part of the ship. The nameship of the class was laid down in 1973 and commissioned in 1980. Illustrious followed in 1982 while Ark Royal entered service in 1985.
Equipped with the Sea Harrier FA.1 and Harrier GR.3, HMS Invincible took part in the regaining of the Falkland Islands in 1982 where her Air-wing destroyed 21 Argentine aircraft for no combat losses (3 Harriers were lost in accidents). From 1993 the improved Harrier FA.2 came on stream but with the retirement of the entire Harrier fleet in 2010 and the loss of HMS Invincible and HMS Ark Royal under the Defence Spending Review, only HMS Illustrious and the half-sister HMS Ocean remain in service as of 2013.
Chris French’s marine painting shows the three sisters together