|HMS Ark Royal (R07), the last Invincible-class light aircraft carrier, is the current flagship of the Royal Navy. She is the fifth ship of the Royal Navy named in honour of the flagship of the English fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada.|
Her keel was laid by Swan Hunter at Wallsend on 7 December 1978. She was launched on 20 June 1981 sponsored by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and commissioned on 1 November 1985. Her name was originally intended to be Indomitable to be similar with her sister ships (HMS Invincible and HMS Illustrious), but public resentment at the scrapping of the previous Ark Royal (Britain's last large aircraft carrier) in 1980, led the Royal Navy to announce that her name would be revived on the new ship.
Ark Royal is slightly larger than her sister ships and during construction she was fitted with a steeper ski-jump ramp, (twelve degrees, as opposed to seven degrees of the Invincible) to improve STOVL take-off performance for the Harrier aircraft.
In May 1999 Ark Royal put into Rosyth for refitting, which included the removal of the Sea Dart missiles and covering over of the foredeck to allow for an enlarged deck park for aircraft. She recommissioned in 2001.
Ark Royal, commanded by Captain Alan Massey, took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq where her complement consisted of helicopters rather than her usual mix of helicopters and Harrier aircraft. During operations in the war two Westland Sea King helicopters, from No. 849 NAS, collided in mid-air with the loss of six British and one American lives. In April, 2004 Ark Royal entered into extended readiness where she is envisaged to remain until 2006.