F-4K Phantom II Takeoff From the Fourth HMS Ark Royal (Boeing Photo)
The Fifth and final iteration of the HMS Ark Royal was retired from Royal Navy service March 11, 2011. Here is a short history of the various ships commissioned HMS Ark Royal over the centuries as provided by the Royal Navy:
The first Ark Royal was built for Sir Walter Raleigh. The 690-ton, 38-gun ship was purchased by the crown and became the flagship 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 was acquired by the RN 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 later operated in the northern Aegean. After the war she continued in Naval service, being involved with the Russian Civil War, in British Somaliland in 1920, and the “Chanak Incident” in Turkey in 1922. In 1923, Ark Royal was re-commissioned. Renamed Pegasus in 1934, the ship took on a training role.
The third Ark Royal was commissioned in 1938 as a 23,000 ton Fleet Carrier, the second British ship conceived and designed as a ‘flat top’ aircraft carrier. At the outbreak of WWII, the ship was attached to the Home Fleet and during late 1939 and early 1940 she took part in many operations the Mediterranean. On 26 May 1941 Ark Royal was directly involved with the sinking of the Bismark, with her torpedo aircraft scoring two crippling hits. On 13 November 1941, the ship was torpedoed 30 miles from Gibraltar, sinking 14 hours later.
The fourth Ark Royal was commissioned in 1955 as a 43,000-ton armoured Fleet Carrier. Originally designed to operate 90 small aircraft with progressive modifications she was able to fly 40 much larger aircraft with faster landing speeds. Following a refit she was able to operate a new generation of aircraft, including McDonnell Douglas Phantoms.
The current HMS Ark Royal (Retired)
The fifth vessel to bear the proud name Ark Royal was built by Swan Hunters at Wallsend, launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 20 June 1981 and accepted into service on 1 July 1985. During her busy life the ship has seen service around the globe in many different roles, including as Fleet Flagship. The ship was deployed in early 2003 leading the UK’s naval forces during Op Telic. After a short period in Extended Readiness Ark Royal moved to Rosyth for modernisation and modification prior to rejoining the fleet as the Royal Navy’s most up to date aircraft carrier. She is currently operating in the Commando Carrier role, capable of carrying an Embarked Military Force of approximately 400 Royal Marines or Army, as well as operating Chinook, Lynx, Apache, and Sea King helicopters.