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RO-7 Ark Royal

The fifth vessel to bear the proud name. Ark Royal was built by Swan Hunters Ship Builders' yard at Wallsend in December 1978 and launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. HMS Ark Royal was accepted into service on July 1 1985.

HMS Ark Royal is larger than her 2 sisters, Invincible and Illustrious, at 210 metres (683 feet) long. She has a maximum beam of 36 metres (117 feet) and a displacement of 20,000 tonnes.

4 Olympus gas turbine engines (like Concorde's) propel the ship, which give a maximum speed in excess of 30 knots. A steeper ski jump than in the other ships of this class is fitted at the forward end of the flight deck.

HMS Ark Royal is planned to remain in active service until 2015 when the next generation of aircraft carriers will enter service.

The Ship's motto is 'Zeal Does Not Rest'

The Fleet Flagship HMS Ark Royal returned to Portsmouth in mid June 2002 after a ten-week trials and exercise deployment. The initial phase of the exercise constituted the last of the ship's trials, and took place around UK waters and included complex operations working with the FA2 and GR7 Harriers carrying out combined strikes while simultaneously operating Merlin and Airborne Early Warning helicopters.

The ship has also been operating in the Mediterranean on a major NATO exercise, Dynamic Mix 02. This complex operation involved assets from 14 countries and included 51 Ships, 165 aircraft and 17125 troops. The ships included the Spanish aircraft carrier Principa de Asturia, HMS Cardiff, Argus and Orangeleaf as well as 3 submarines. During the exercise HMS Ark Royal embarked Rear Admiral Burnell-Nugent and the Maritime Battle Staff and took the major role leading the maritime component of the Opposing Forces who were attacking NATO.

The ship visited both Alicante and Palma and had been involved in Golden Jubilee celebrations including co-hosting a cocktail party onboard with the British Ambassador to Spain.

On her return to Portsmouth HMS Ark Royal hosted Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth and his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh onboard. The Queen reviewed the might of her armed forces on land, sea and air from the flight deck. This included a mock assault on a specially prepared island in Portsmouth harbour and a flypast by aircraft of all three services. Queen Elizabeth then took an impromptu opportunity to meet members of the ship's crew both on deck and in the main aircraft hangar.

By mid August 2002 the HMS Ark Royal had begun her scheduled Assisted Maintenance Period (AMP) in Portsmouth Dockyard to prepare for her autumn deployment to the Mediterranean.

HMS Ark Royal, the Fleet Flagship, sailed Portsmouth on 2 Sep for ARGONAUT 2002 - a UK led Maritime deployment taking place in the central Mediterranean. The aim of ARGONAUT was to demonstrate Britain's ability to deploy, operate and sustain a Maritime Task Group.

The Amphibious Task Group comprising ten British ships with Dutch assault vessel HNLMS Rotterdam and the Belgian frigate Westdiep was led by the Commander Amphibious Task Group, Commodore Jamie Miller, who flew his pennant in HMS Ark Royal during the early stage of the deployment.

The deployment started in British waters with a period of Force Integration Training for the FA2 Sea Harriers of 800 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and the GR7 Harriers of 1(f) Squadron RAF. The remainder of the Carrier's Air Group comprised ASW Sea King helicopters from 820 NAS and the recently upgraded AEW Sea King from 848 NAS. 814 NAS with the new Merlin ASW helicopter were embarked on the replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria. ARGONAUT 02 marks the Merlin's first operational deployment.

The Task Group then headed down to the Mediterranean where, after visiting Gibraltar, HMS Ark Royal entered Malta's Grand Harbour to contribute to the island's celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Operation PEDESTAL. PEDESTAL was the name given to a World War 2 convoy that brought 32,000 tons of supplies to Malta enabling the island to hold out until the siege by Axis forces was lifted.

It was fitting that HMS Ark Royal visited during the Anniversary as on many occasions during World War 2 the third HMS Ark Royal ferried planes to Malta and covered Malta-bound convoys. It was while returning to Gibraltar from one such mission, Operation PERPETUAL, that the third HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed by the German submarine U-81. After a difficult struggle against progressive flooding, the carrier capsized and sank on 14 November 1941.

At the centre of ARGONAUT 02 were the two NATO amphibious exercises: DESTINED GLORY and ABELIA. Taking place in the littorals of Italy and the south of France they provided the first opportunity for nations involved in the European Amphibious Initiative to develop their operating procedures. During the exercises HMS Ark Royal worked with ships and submarines from a number of different nations, including the USS George Washington. As well as being highly successful, this was an extremely busy time for HMS Ark Royal with an additional 200 staff from Commander UK Amphibious Forces and the US Amphibious Group 2 embarked to command and control the exercises.

HMS Ark Royal then headed for Barcelona where the ship's company had 5 days to enjoy the Catalonian capital before returning to Portsmouth. The ship then underwent a maintenance period before embarking on a global deployment in early 2003.

The First Ark Royal

The first Ark Royal was built for Sir Walter RALEIGH. The 690 ton, 38 gun ship was purchased by the crown and became the flag ship of the Lord High Admiral, Howard of Effingham.The ship saw action in July 1588 during the Spanish Armada and eight years later in Cadiz.

The Second Ark Royal

Ark Royal II was acquired by the Navy in 1913 and was commissioned in December 1914 as a 7,400 ton seaplane carrier. Her aircraft first saw action in February 1915 over the Dardanelles and until the arrival of German submarines she operated in the northern Aegean reconnoitring and bombing Turkish ports. After the war she continued in Naval service and took Royal Air Force aircraft to British Somaliland to aid quelling the "Mad Mullah's revolt" in 1920 and in 1922 she carried the RAF for the "Chanak Incident". Ark Royal was recommissioned as a trials ship to test aircraft catapult equipment. Renamed Pegasus in 1934 the ship took on a training role.

The Third Ark Royal

The third Ark Royal was commissioned in 1938 as a 23,000 ton Fleet Carrier, the first British ship conceived and designed as a 'flat top' aircraft carrier. At the outbreak of World War II, Ark Royal was attached to the Home Fleet, and during late 1939, and early 1940 Ark Royal returned to the Mediterranean and took part in many operations with Force H. In May 1941 Ark Royal and Force H left Gibraltar to intercept the Bismarck and Prince Eugen. On May 26 she flew off a striking force of torpedo aircraft which scored two hits crippling the Bismarck. On 13 November 1941, returning from an aircraft ferrying operation to Malta, the Ark Royal was torpedoed 30 miles from Gibraltar. Although she was taken in tow, the flooding could not be controlled and the following day she sank, 14 hours after being hit. Only one rating was lost of her complement of nearly 1600.

The Fourth Ark Royal

The fourth Ark Royal, ordered in 1942, was finally commissioned in 1955 as a 43,000 ton armoured Fleet Carrier. She included many wartime modifications and was the first Royal Navy carrier to feature all the British developments enabling jet operations including the angled deck, steam catapult and a mirror landing aid. Originally she was designed to operate 90 small aircraft with landing speed of up to 80 knots. With progressive modifications she was able to fly 40 much larger aircraft with faster landing speeds up to 135 knots. Following her first major refit of 1958-59 she was able to operate a new generation of swept wing aircraft such as the Supermarine Scimitar and the De Havilland Sea Vixen. Further modifications eventually enabled her to operate McDonnell Douglas Phantoms.

Battle Honours
ARMADA 1588 CADIZ 1596

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