The Ministry of Defence today confirmed HMS Ark Royal has been sold to a Turkish scrapyard for £2.9m.
The Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier will suffer the same fate as sister ship HMS Invincible, which was towed to Turkey by Leyal Ship Recycling last year.
Leyal saw off 16 other bids for Ark Royal and will tow the 22,000-tonne warship from Portsmouth early next year.
However, the MoD announced its intention to save Ark’s other sister ship HMS Illustrious from being turned into razor blades when she is retired from service in 2014.
Defence minister Philip Dunne said: ‘It is important that we preserve the legacy of the Royal Navy’s Invincible Class aircraft carriers.
‘When the last of these - HMS Illustrious - retires from the Royal Navy, we would like to see her preserved as a legacy to the work she, Invincible and Ark Royal have done to protect the UK over three decades.
‘We would be keen to seek innovative proposals from a range of organisations, including private sector companies, charities and trusts.’
Ark Royal was in too poor condition to be saved after she was stripped of spare parts for Illustrious.
Alternative offers to turn her into a diving wreck, heliport, or casino were deemed ‘either not feasible or appropriate, or carried too much risk’, an MoD spokesman said.
The famous warship was axed in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, along with the navy’s 72 Harrier jump jets – which were sold to the US for around £110m.
Mr Dunne said: ‘HMS Ark Royal, like her sister ships, served this country with great distinction. Retiring her five years earlier than planned was a difficult decision but it was the right one that, combined with her sale, has saved over a hundred million pounds. That has helped the MoD achieve a sustainable and balanced budget for the first time in decades.’
Preparatory work will be carried out on Ark Royal over the winter to enable her to be towed from Portsmouth to Turkey. She will be recycled in Izmir – the same location where Invincible is being cut up.