HMS Ark Royal (R07)
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HMS Ark Royal (R07), the last Invincible-class light aircraft carrier to be completed, is the fifth ship of the Royal Navy named in honour of the flagship of the English fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada. Ark Royal is slightly larger than her sister ships and during construction she was fitted with a steeper ski-jump ramp, (twelve degrees, as opposed to seven degrees of the Invincible) to improve STOVL take-off performance for the Harrier aircraft.
She is currently the flagship of the active fleet.
Her keel was laid by Swan Hunter at Wallsend on 7 December 1978. She was launched on 20 June 1981 sponsored by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and commissioned on 1 November 1985. Her name was originally intended to be Indomitable in line with her sister ships ( HMS Invincible and HMS Illustrious), but public resentment at the scrapping of the previous Ark Royal (Britain's last large aircraft carrier) in 1980, led the Royal Navy to announce that the name would be revived on the new ship.
In May 1999 Ark Royal put into Rosyth for refitting, which included the removal of the Sea Dart missiles and covering over of the foredeck to allow for an enlarged deck park for aircraft. She was recommissioned in 2001.
In April 2004 Ark Royal entered into extended readiness, following which she entered refit with the return to service of Illustrious. Ark Royal completed an extensive refit in August 2006 and returned to Portsmouth, her home port, to rejoin the fleet on 28 October 2006 where she underwent 10 weeks of training and sea trials.l. Ark Royal will be utilised as an LPH, replacing Ocean while she undergoes refit. On 16 November 2006 a British Army WAH-64 Apache attack helicopter landed on Ark Royal for the first time marking an increase in the carriers capability. On March 22 2007, HMS Ark Royal was returned to the Royal Navy Fleet after a 2 year refit worth £18 million. As of May 2007, she once again became the Fleet Flagship, reclaiming the title from her sister ship, Illustrious, which had been Flagship since the end of her refit in 2005.
Ark Royal, commanded by Captain Alan Massey, took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq where her complement consisted of helicopters rather than her usual mix of helicopters and Harrier aircraft. During operations in the war two Westland Sea King helicopters, from 849 Naval Air Squadron, collided in mid-air with the loss of one American and six British lives.
Ark Royal is expected to remain in service until 2016, at which time she will be replaced with the second of the Royal Navy future carriers. These new vessels are expected to displace three times that of the Invincible class and offer a steep change in operational capability.
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