Military Wiki
HMS Invincible (R05)
HMS Invincible in 1990
HMS Invincible in 1990
Career (United Kingdom)
Ordered: 17 April 1973
Builder: Vickers Shipbuilding Limited, Barrow-in-Furness, England
Laid down: July, 1973
Launched: 3 May 1977
Sponsored by: Queen Elizabeth II
Commissioned: 11 July 1980
Decommissioned: 3 August 2005
Homeport: HMNB Portsmouth
Identification: Pennant: R05
Deck code= N
Nickname: "Vince"[1]
Fate: Scrapped[2]
Badge: File:HMS Invincible badge.gif
General characteristics
Class & type: Invincible-class aircraft carrier
Tonnage: 16000 tonnes (light) [3]
Displacement: 22,000 long tons (22,000 t) fully loaded
Length: 689 ft (210 m)
Beam: 118.1 ft (36.0 m)
Draught: 28.9 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: 4 × Rolls-Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbines providing 97,000 hp (75 MW)
8 Paxman Valenta diesel generators.
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h), 18 knots (33 km/h) cruising
Range: 7,000 nautical miles at 18 knots (13,000 km at 33 km/h)
Complement: 1,051 (total);
726 Ship's company
384 Air Group personnel
Armament: 3 × Goalkeeper CIWS
2 × GAM-B01 20 mm close-range guns
Aircraft carried:

HMS Invincible was a British light aircraft carrier, the lead ship of three in her class in the Royal Navy. She was launched on 3 May 1977 and is the seventh ship to carry the name. She saw action in the Falklands War when she was deployed with HMS Hermes, she took over as flagship of the British fleet when Hermes was sold to India. Invincible was also deployed in the Yugoslav Wars and the Second Gulf War. She was decommissioned in 2005 and eventually sold for scrap in February 2011 to Turkish company, Leyal Ship Recycling.[5]


Invincible was built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering. She was laid down in 1973 and launched on 3 May 1977. On 11 July 1980 she was commissioned and joined the fleet's other carriers Hermes and Bulwark in service.

Proposed sale and Falklands War

Invincible in the South Atlantic, during the Falklands War

Invincible returns to the Solent after the Falklands War

On 25 February 1982 the Australian government announced after several months of negotiations that it had agreed to buy Invincible for £175 million. The sale was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence.[6] The ship would have replaced the Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Melbourne and would have been renamed HMAS Australia.[7]

On 2 April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and three days later a naval task force headed by Invincible and Hermes left Portsmouth bound for the South Atlantic. On 20 April 1982 the British War Cabinet ordered the repossession of the Falkland Islands. The Invincible's airgroup contained 8 Sea Harrier and 12 Sea King aircraft, slightly larger than the ship had originally been designed to accommodate. In addition many small machine guns were added around the flight deck and island for close-in defence.

During the journey south from Ascension Island to the Falklands, on 23 April, Invincible locked her Sea Dart system onto a Brazilian Airlines DC10 in mistake for the Argentine Air Force Boeing 707 that had been monitoring the fleet's movements for several days.[8][9] Task group commander, Rear Admiral "Sandy" Woodward had the previous day sought permission from Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse to shoot down the 707,[10] which had been nicknamed the "burglar,"[11] as he believed it could precede a raid launched from the Argentine aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo against his own carriers. Woodward believed he had been given permission to shoot it down as long as it came within a certain distance, and could be positively identified, although he held this belief as a result of a conversation via the Defence Secure Speech System, and had not had this confirmed in writing.[10] As the 707 was no direct threat to the fleet, Woodward ordered its course tracked, and it was reported to him that the plane was on a "direct line running from Durban to Rio de Janeiro".[8] With this in mind, Woodward gave the order "weapons tight,"[9] preventing any ship from engaging the plane, and sent a Sea Harrier up to investigate. The Harrier pilot reported that "it was a Brazilian Airliner, with all the normal navigation and running lights on."[12] Details of the Harrier interception appeared in the Brazilian press, with passengers "alleged to have been frightened," with Woodward's reply to Fieldhouse's request for details of the incident being "Inconvenience to passengers' underwear regretted unless any of them were Argentinian."[13]

On 1 June Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser advised the British Government that the sale of Invincible to Australia could be cancelled if desired. The UK formally declared an end to hostilities on 20 June 1982.[14] In July 1982 the British Ministry of Defence announced that it had withdrawn its offer to sell Invincible and that it would maintain a three-carrier force.[15] Although Argentina claims to have damaged this ship during the Falklands War,[16] this is officially denied by the British Government and there is no evidence that any damage was inflicted.[17][18]


In December 1983 Australia refused the use of dry dock facilities in Sydney for Invincible during the Orient Express group deployment when the Royal Navy declined to say whether the ship was carrying nuclear weapons.[19] Invincible was accompanied by other ships, including Achilles, during this deployment.

From 1993 to 1995, Invincible was deployed in the Adriatic for Operation Deny Flight over Bosnia and contributed to Operation Deliberate Force which concluded the deployment. In 1997, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Alan West, Commander UK Task Group, Invincible led the Ocean Wave '97 deployment, which also included Commodore Amphibious Warfare and 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.

In 1998 and 1999, she contributed to Operation Bolton in Southern Iraq along with the Royal Saudi Air Force, the United States Air Force and (in 1998) the French Air Force.

In 1999, she was deployed to the Balkans again to assist action against Yugoslavia.[20] Her Harriers were involved in military strikes while her helicopters aided refugees.

A Sea Harrier FA2 on the deck of Invincible


On 6 June 2005 the Ministry of Defence announced that Invincible would be inactive until 2010, available for reactivation at 18 months' notice. She was decommissioned on 3 August 2005, 20 months after an extensive modernization/refit which had been intended to give her ten more years of service.[21] Illustrious succeeded Invincible as the service's flagship. The Royal Navy maintained that Invincible could have been deployed had the need arisen and that navy policy assumed that she was still an active aircraft carrier. According to Jane's, however, because she was stripped of some parts for her sisters it would require not only 18 months but also the removal of systems from the other ships to bring her to a state of operational readiness. In March 2010, she was tied up and minimally maintained with other decommissioned ships up-river of the Portsmouth Naval Base. Invincible was struck off the Naval Reserve List on 10 September 2010,[22] and offered for sale by the Disposal Services Authority from December 2010, with tenders due by 5 January 2011.[2][23] The DSA tender documents confirmed that the ship's engines had been removed, and that the generators and pumps were "generally unserviceable or not working."[2] On 8 January 2011 the British press announced an earlier report in the South China Morning Post that a £5 million bid had been made for the ship by the UK-based Chinese businessman Lam Kin-bong, who planned to moor the vessel at Zhuhai or Liverpool as a floating international school - doubts were raised as to whether this sale would go ahead, in the light of the EU arms embargo on China and of China's re-arming of the Varyag which was bought under a similar pretext.[24] BBC News reported on 8 February 2011 that the Ministry of Defence had announced the sale of Invincible to Leyal Ship Recycling in Turkey. She was towed out of Portsmouth on Thursday 24 March[25] and arrived at Leyal's Aliağa yard on 12 April 2011 to be scrapped.[26] Work was underway to break up the ship by June 2011.[27]

Weapons and aircraft

Invincible's Sea Dart.

Invincible initially lacked any close-in weapon systems. As one of the lessons from the Falklands War Invincible had two 20 mm Raytheon Phalanx close-in weapon systems fitted but these were later upgraded to three Thales 30 mm Goalkeeper CIWS; there are also two Oerlikon 20 mm cannons. Countermeasures were provided by a Thales jamming system and ECM system, Seagnat launchers provide for chaff or flare decoys. Initially the carriers were armed with a Sea Dart SAM missile system, but this was removed to enlarge the flight deck and to allow magazine storage and deck space for Royal Air Force Harrier GR7s.

After the various refits, the carrier's air group grew from the original planned 5 Sea Harriers and 9 Sea Kings to nine Sea Harrier or Harrier GR7/9s and twelve helicopters (usually all Sea Kings, either anti-submarine warfare (ASW) or Airborne Early Warning (AEW) variants). Alternative airgroups were occasionally tested with 16 Harriers and 3 helicopters being embarked. The carrier was equipped with flagship facilities and could provide an operational headquarters for Royal Navy task forces. The runway was 170 metres (560 ft) long and included the ship's characteristic "ski jump" (initially at an angle of 7°, but later increased to 12°).

Commanding Officers


  1. "Sea Harriers still in business". Navy News. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Sale By Tender - HMS Invincible". Disposal Services Authority. Archived from the original on 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  3. "Invincible Recycling Report". DE&S. Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  4. The Big Interview: Admiral Sir Alan West
  5. "HMS Invincible sold for scrap to Turkish ship recyclers". 02-08-11. Retrieved 02-08-11. 
  6. Bloom, Bridget; Newby, Patricia (1982-02-26). "Protest as Australia buys UK carrier". Financial Times. The Financial Times Limited. p. 4. 
  7. "Sea Harrier Down Under". Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lawrence Freedman, Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volume 2, page 223. ISBN 978-0-415-41911-6
  9. 9.0 9.1 Admiral Sandy Woodward, One Hundred Days, page 144. ISBN 978-0-00-713467-0
  10. 10.0 10.1 Admiral Sandy Woodward, One Hundred Days, page 143. ISBN 978-0-00-713467-0
  11. Admiral Sandy Woodward, One Hundred Days, page 142. ISBN 978-0-00-713467-0
  12. Admiral Sandy Woodward, One Hundred Days, page 145. ISBN 978-0-00-713467-0
  13. Lawrence Freedman, Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volume 2, page 224. ISBN 978-0-415-41911-6
  14. "United Kingdom: Falklands Conflict - A Brief History". United Kingdom Ministry of Defence. 2006-11-14. 
  15. "Invincible Sale Offer Withdrawn". Aviation Week & Space Technology. McGraw-Hill, Inc.. 1982-07-19. p. 19. 
  16. "- Fuerza Aérea Argentina" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  17. "Argentine Airpower in the Falklands War: An Operational View". Air and Space Power Journal. Federal Information and News Dispatch, Inc.. 2002-08-20. 
  18. "Argentine Aircraft in the Falklands". Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  19. "Australia turns back British carrier". United Press International. 1983-12-09. 
  20. "Carrier Group Ordered Home". Navy News. June 1999. p. 4. 
  21. Ingham, John (2005-08-02). "Invincible docks for the last time". The Express. Express Newspapers. p. 15. 
  22. North West Evening Mail Barrow-built Invincible thrown out of the Navy
  23. "Ex-Navy ship HMS Invincible in website auction". BBC News Online. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010. 
  24. Jonathan Watts (8 January 2011). "Chinese businessman bids £5m for HMS Invincible". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  25. "HMS Invincible makes final journey to Turkish scrapyard". BBC News. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  26. "Crowds gather to see Invincible towed out". Navy News. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  27. Muxworthy, John (15 June 2011). "No wonder we can't even topple a tin-pot gangster like Gaddafi: Invincible, pride of the Falklands, is broken up in knacker's yard". Retrieved 2 February 2012. 


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