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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Last journey for aircraft carrier
A piper plays as HMS Invincible sails into port for the last time

One of the navy's three aircraft carriers sailed into Portsmouth for the last time on Monday before retiring after 25 years of service.

A flypast took place as HMS Invincible arrived into port, before being decommissioned on 3 August.

The crew and more than 200 family members were on board to say farewell.

Critics have raised concerns that her retirement has left the navy with only one aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, while HMS Ark Royal undergoes a refit.

Following the ceremony on Monday, there will be a reception on the ship for former crew members, followed by a paying-off parade on Wednesday.

Captain Neil Morisetti, Invincible's commanding officer, said: "These events provide an excellent opportunity for HMS Invincible to celebrate not only her 25 years of service but also the hard work and dedication shown by members of the ship's company past and present, and the continued support given by their families throughout her long and distinguished career."

Strike carrier HMS Illustrious will take over from Invincible as the service's flagship at a ceremony off Portsmouth on Thursday.

New postings

HMS Invincible is being taken out of service six months early - a move that critics have said is to fund the ongoing military presence in Iraq.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Invincible would be gradually relieved of its crew and captain soon after the decommissioning ceremony.

The crew will be given new postings and the vessel will be handed over to the MoD's Disposal and Reserve Ships Organisation where it will be mothballed until it is sold in 2010.

The carrier was launched by the Queen in 1977. The Duke of York was based on board as a Sea King helicopter pilot during the Falklands war.

The vessel had a 64m refit in 2001 and acted as the Royal Navy's flagship in last week's International Fleet Review.

Invincible is the sixth ship in the Royal Navy's history to bear the name.

The navy said it intends to replace its whole fleet of aircraft carriers in 2012.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch HMS Invincible sail into Portsmouth



SEE ALSO:
Navy to have one aircraft carrier
06 Jul 05 |  UK Politics
HMS Invincible sets sail for US
06 May 04 |  Hampshire/Dorset
New naval flagship greets Queen
28 Jun 05 |  Hampshire


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