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Might HMS Ark Royal's final farewell (British carrier)
Sunday Sun ^ | Nov 21 2010 | Rob Pattinson

Posted on 11/21/2010 6:42:36 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki

Might HMS Ark Royal's final farewell

Nov 21 2010 by Rob Pattinson, Sunday Sun

THE outline of the iconic Harrier jump jet casts a striking image as the winter sun sets on the horizon.

It’s like a scene from 80s blockbuster Top Gun as workers tinker around the small GR9, ensuring it’s secured firmly to the deck in the fading light of this cold November afternoon.

It’s 3pm on Friday and I’m standing on the deck of the HMS Ark Royal, the Wallsend-built Royal Navy flagship less than an hour after it docked on Tyneside for the very last time in its 25-year career.

Alongside Northumbria Quay, North Shields, hundreds of people are gazing up at the 22,000-tonne ship, many brandishing cameras, snapping away for the last time at the vessel some of them will have had a hand in building at Swan Hunter back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Built at a cost of £320million and delivered four months early, she entered service on July 1, 1985, and was commissioned in the presence of the Queen Mother four months later.

Affectionately dubbed The Mighty Ark, this is the fifth ship to bear the name of the famous HMS Ark Royal which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, and she played an integral role in the Bosnian War in 1993, and the invasion of Iraq a decade later.

But in this, her Silver Jubilee year, it will all end.

HMS Ark Royal will soon be taken out of service as part of the Government defence cuts announced last month.

I’m one of a lucky few journalists invited onboard as the crew prepare for a busy five days docked here, just a couple of miles up-river from where the first steel was cut back in 1978.

Public openings, corporate receptions and a number of tours are planned before the ship sets sail and leaves the Tyne for the final time on Tuesday, and already the deck is a hive of activity.

Aircraft Engineering Technicians (AETs) are hard at work securing four Harriers which share the huge deck with two Sea King helicopters, while more hands are working on a Merlin helicopter in the hanger in the bowels of the ship.

A dozen of them are towing one of the four jump-jets up the ski-jump ramp in preparation of the thousands of visitors due on deck yesterday and today.

The Harriers arrived just a few hours earlier and the mood is tinged with sadness.

Not only is this the end of the ship, but the jets too, which have also been decommissioned. And this week the ship will cut ties for good.

After sailing down the Tyne and out towards Hamburg, the birds will fly as the GR9s leave the decks for good.

For the AETs, this is the last time they will work on these jets on these decks. It’s clear in their body language as they spend longer than normal carrying out the tasks they’ve done hundreds of times that this a huge moment.

One tells me that his career path had been based on wanting to work on the Harrier and admits that it will be hard saying goodbye to these and the ship in the same year, while another simply says “it’s the best jet they ever made”.

With the end of two very big eras looming this week, it’s no surprise that this visit to Tyneside brings mixed feelings for the crew

I’m joined on deck by Petty Officer Darren Dinsdale and Lieutenant Geoff Hughes, both of Sunderland.

Petty Officer Dinsdale has sailed up the Tyne several times on Ark Royal. “It brings a certain poignancy, knowing this is the last time here,” he said.

“You just had to look at the people lining both sides of the river as we sailed in to know how important this is to the people of Tyneside.”

Lieutenant Hughes agrees that this trip is the perfect goodbye.

“Once it was announced this was to be our final voyage, everyone was pleased to hear we were coming back.

“We were built on the Tyne and we felt it was important to say our farewells on the Tyne.”

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: arkroyal; britain; navair; royalnavy; uk; ungland
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To: ken5050 follow-up..a few comments on the thread suggest that 25 years is NOT a long life..our CVNs last 50+ years..with one refueling at 25-30 years..

What matters are the ships' design life, and how much operational work they have under their belt.

Modern USN CVNs are designed from the start for 50 years. Older USN supercarriers weren't: they were more like 30-35 years and a number (three Forrestals and two Kitty Hawks) were SLEP'd (Service Life Extension Program) to run them out an additional 10-15 years. As it was, the two most successful SLEPs were the ships that ended up being the forward-deployed decks in Japan (Independence and Kitty Hawk), where they had a lighter operational tempo than CONUS-base decks and got better upkeep (as was the case with Midway before them).

The Essex-class carriers had operational careers that averaged around 20 years (remember that many were mothballed after WWII and not reactivated until Korea), and by all accounts they were pretty much falling apart at the seams when taken out of service in the late 60s through mid 70s.

The Invincibles were designed for about 30 years of service. They had a somewhat lighter OpTempo because of the RN policy to keep one in overhaul/extended readiness and the other two operational (one as the high-readiness deck, the other as RN Flagship). But the RN also treats its ships much differently than the USN does. The previous Ark Royal was an absolute shambles when decommissioned and paid off in the late 1970s, after a ~25 year operational career.
21 posted on 11/22/2010 2:28:40 PM PST by tanknetter
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To: tanknetter

Many thanks for your learned input..

22 posted on 11/23/2010 3:56:49 AM PST by ken5050 (Palin/Bachman 2012 - FOUR boobs are better than the two we have now!)
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To: tanknetter
tanknetter: "The Invincibles were designed for about 30 years of service."

Very interesting. Thanks for a great post.

23 posted on 11/23/2010 3:57:51 AM PST by BroJoeK (a little historical perspective....)
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To: Jay W
"In following a kinds of news stories about Britain over the past 10 years, it seems pretty clear that they have completely lost their minds, and their soul. Britain is finished."

Not So Great Britain was finished a long time ago. They were finished when they kicked the greatest Prime Minister in the history of Britain out of office after WWII in favor of an Honest-To-No-God Socialist. They were finished when they willingly, eagerly embraced all the ills of socialism after WWII. They were finished when they cheerily supported nationalization of their industries. They were finished when they decided that their ethinicity was seperate from "Britishness", and that an anti-freedom Muslim from Pakistan was just as much a Briton as a Londoner raised in the Church. They were finished when they turned their back on Britania in favor of Europa. They were finished when they decided that national greatness is not an ideal to be worked for, but an arrogant affront to the community of nations.

It's painfully clear that Churchill and Thatcher were the exceptions to the rule, and that Clement Atlee and Harold Brown are the rule.

Worse, Cameron is about as good as they can expect, and the truth is, they have no choice to but make these defense cuts. They have no money.
24 posted on 11/23/2010 9:27:51 AM PST by DesScorp
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To: DesScorp

Why make this about the UK, Britain is finished blah blah blah isnt that similar to what a german guy by the name of Hitler said. Truth is the Ark Royal was knackered, i know plenty of people who use to work on her and truth is she was falling apart and needed replacing. The harrier, that great fantastic plane was aged and few in number. Yes its regrettable that the new carriers with aircraft cant be here sooner but they will arrive, meanwhile the RN will have to do what it has always done for 500+ years make do with what it has. Unlike the USA we dont need the latest toys to win a battle because we realise sometimes the best way to win isnt to get into a fight in the first place and if we do, we pick our fights.

25 posted on 12/18/2010 1:18:08 PM PST by Dragonwight
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