HMS Illustrious Damaged In Norway

The Portsmouth helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is to return from exercise off Norway early after a collision with a tug boat left her with two holes in her hull, the Royal Navy said today.

The incident occurred on March 9 in the Norwegian port of Harstad, leading to damage above the waterline.

The 22,000-tonne vessel was due to return home later this month after an eight-week deployment to train with other Nato warships in the Arctic Circle as part of Exercise Cold Response.

But she will now dock in Portsmouth on Sunday for repairs after taking part in half the exercise.

"Illustrious is returning to complete the repair of two small holes caused when one of four tugs came into contact with the ship's starboard quarter while assisting her to berth at Harstad, Norway. An investigation is being conducted," a Royal Navy spokesman said.

"The holes are well above the waterline and do not affect her seaworthiness or safety. No-one was injured in the incident.

"Initial repairs were carried out by the ship's engineers and, while she could have continued to participate in Exercise Cold Response, the decision was taken to return her to Portsmouth so that the repairs could be completed to ensure that her future programme can be achieved."

The 30-year-old ship, nicknamed Lusty, was recently converted from an aircraft carrier to a helicopter carrier in a £40 million refit.