HMS Ark Royal sold for scrap by Ministry of Defence

HMS Ark Royal in Portsmouth HMS Ark Royal was decommissioned at a ceremony in its home base of Portsmouth

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Aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal is being sold for £3m for scrap metal by the Ministry of Defence to help tackle a multi-billion pound defence deficit.

The removal of the Royal Navy's former flagship from service in 2011, five years early, was a "difficult but necessary decision", the MoD has said.

Its sale follows bids to turn the ship into a London heliport, a dive site off Devon or other facilities overseas.

An announcement on its future will be made in Parliament on Monday.

More details about the deal are expected to be released during that announcement.

The MoD said the "new, much larger" Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers would start to enter service in 2017.

Sister ship HMS Invincible was also sold for scrap last year to a Turkish scrap metal firm.

The Ark Royal - which was in service for 25 years - was put up for sale on the Ministry of Defence's edisposals.com website, which sells off kit to raise money to equip the armed forces with everything from aircraft to clothing.

The ship, which led the UK's naval forces during the invasion of Iraq, is the fifth vessel to carry the name - the first saw battle in 1588 against the Spanish Armada.

The decision to bring forward its decommissioning was criticised because it leaves the Navy without the capacity to launch fixed-wing aircraft until replacements are brought in.

But the MoD said last year that it had access to "a range of international bases which allow us to project our air power around the world".

The Ark Royal has been docked at Portsmouth Naval Base since it was decommissioned.

One of the unsuccessful proposals had been to strip and sink the carrier for a diving site, put forward by Torbay-based dive group Wreck the World.

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