Invincible Class

Overview

Country: United Kingdom

Arising out of a 1960s design for a 12,500 tonne anti-submarine escort carrier, the first Invincible Class aircraft carrier was commissioned in July 1980. The Invincible Class was designed to serve as the headquarters for a task group and to support short take off aircraft as well as helicopters. Built by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering (now BAE Systems Marine) at Barrow-in-Furness, HMS Invincible was the first of three Invincible class ships to serve with the Royal Navy. HMS Invincible’s sister ships, HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal, were commissioned in 1982 and 1985 respectively.

The development of the Sea Harrier aircraft required the design of the Invincible Class vessels to incorporate a ‘ski-jump’ style flight deck to allow the Harrier to be launched from the ships. The Class also has the capacity to carry up to 7 helicopters.

Developed during the Cold War, part of the requirement of the Invincible Class vessels was to counter the threat of attack by Soviet submarines. As such they were also fitted with the Sea Dart surface-to-air missile system, which was removed during refits of the three ships during the 1990s.

HMS Invincible’s deployment in the Falklands War, 1982, confirmed the importance of the traditional aircraft carrier. During the conflict Invincible, along with older Royal Navy aircraft carriers, was vital in projecting over land and sea its Sea King helicopters and Sea Harrier fighter aircraft. Following the cessation of hostilities, HMS Illustrious was deployed to the Falklands to undertake guard duties.

The three Invincible Class vessels served to the end of the Cold War period and two, Ark Royal and Illustrious remain in service to the present day, underlining their importance in the Royal Navy’s fleet.


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