But she is just as versatile, able to operate almost anywhere in the world.
Aircraft carriers are key to modern defence strategy, allowing for early reconnaissance, the landing of special forces and land attack from the air.
Built in 1978, Ark Royal was launched by the Queen Mother, who remained the ship's patron.
It was the fourth Royal Navy ship to bear the distinguished name in the 20th Century.
The second Ark Royal saw service in the First World War, while the third played a distinguished role in World War II.
It launched the torpedo plane attack which crippled the Bismarck, but the British carrier was later sunk returning from Malta in 1941.
The fourth Ark Royal - commissioned in 1955 - was the first Royal Navy carrier to feature all the developments enabling jet operations, including an angled deck, steam catapult and a mirror landing aid.
The current vessel entered service in 1985 and played a key role in the Balkans
conflict in the early 1990s, mainly based in the Adriatic.