The much-loved former Navy flagship, HMS Ark Royal, is to be sold for scrap metal, it was revealed today.
The aircraft carrier – whose links with Leeds go back to the Second World War – was decommissioned by the Ministry of Defence in 2010, five years ahead of its expected sell-by date.
It will now be dismantled in a deal said to be worth £3m in a move the MoD has described as “difficult but necessary”.
The decision comes following a bidding process which included proposals to turn the 22,000-ton ship into a helipad in the Thames, a museum, a hotel, a casino or a diving wreck off the South coast.
A MoD spokesman said: “HMS Ark Royal was decommissioned in 2010 after three decades of service and an announcement on her future will be made to Parliament today.
“Retiring her five years earlier than planned was a difficult but necessary decision to help address the multi-billion pound Defence deficit and deliver a balanced MoD budget.
“The new, much larger Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers will start to enter service in 2017.”
Ark Royal is seen as a symbol of the former might and current woes of the Royal Navy, being the fifth vessel to carry the name of the flagship which saw off the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Leeds’s links with the ship were forged during the Second World war when the people of the city raised a staggering £9m to replace the third ship to bear the proud name, which was torpedoed and sunk in November 1941 just six months after she had helped sink the Bismarck.
Known as the Mighty Ark, the light aircraft carrier also saw action in the Adriatic during the Bosnian War in 1993 before being sent to lead the British fleet during the invasion of Iraq a decade later.
Following the Defence and Security Review’s decision to scupper the vessel and ground the Navy’s Harrier jump jet fleet 18 months ago, the ship has been awaiting its fate in Portsmouth harbour.
Last year HMS Invincible was sold to a scrap metal firm as part of an MoD’s drive to get its finances in order.