UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious steamed up the river Thames on Tuesday to the City of London with a full-scale model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter displayed at the foot of her ski jump.
The 26-year-old ship is spending eight days moored adjacent to the historic Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich as part of Remembrance Sunday commemorations.
The journey to Greenwich involved a "squeeze" through the Thames Barrier and a 180° turn adjacent to the Isle of Dogs, which was undertaken with the help of tugs and three Thames river pilots who were on board. The 22,500t ship was then towed backwards further up the river to her Greenwich mooring.
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"HMS Illustrious is glad to be back in London and among friends," says the ship's commanding officer Capt Steve Chick. "The ship is affiliated to several organisations within London and we are very appreciative of such relationships."
While there are no plans for HMS Illustrious to operate the JSF, the aircraft is destined to replace the BAE Systems Harrier GR7/9s flown by the UK's Joint Force Harrier group from the second half of the next decade. By then Illustrious and her sisters Ark Royal and Invincible are due to have been replaced by the Royal Navy's two 65,000t Queen Elizabeth-class CVF future aircraft carriers.
- PICTURES: HMS Illustrious sailing through the Thames barrier