LONDON – HMS Ark Royal, formerly Britain’s flagship aircraft carrier, sailed out of its home port on Monday to be scrapped in Turkey.
Britain, which has always prided itself on its sea power, will have to do without the ability to launch jets at sea until 2020 as it tries to balance its books and waits for two new carriers to be built.
Crowds lined the harbor walls at Portsmouth on England’s south coast to say farewell to the “Mighty Ark.” Some onlookers wore black armbands or waved flags.
The warship, which saw active service in the Balkans and the second war in Iraq, is being towed to Izmir on Turkey’s west coast. It was sold as scrap to recycling firm Leyal for £2.9 million ($4.4 million).
HMS Ark Royal and its sister aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Illustrious were the biggest ships in the Royal Navy — a key part not only of Britain’s defense but also its ability to project power worldwide.
Invincible was sold to Leyal for scrap in 2011, while Illustrious is serving as a helicopter landing platform and ministers hope to preserve her for the nation after it retires next year.