HMS Illustrious (R06) is the second of three Invincible-class light aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is the fifth warship and second aircraft carrier to be called Illustrious, and is affectionately known as Lusty to her crew. She just missed the Falklands Conflict, but was deployed to Iraq and Bosnia in the 1990s and to Sierra Leone in 2000. A massive re-fit in 2002 meant that she missed the Iraq War, but she was finished in time to assist British Citizens trapped by the war in Lebanon. She will be replaced by HMS Queen Elizabeth.
She was laid down at Swan Hunter on the River Tyne in 1976, and launched in 1978. As the ship neared the end of its fitting out period, the Falklands War broke out. As a consequence, work on Illustrious was greatly speeded up. The war was won before Illustrious could be finished, but she did perform a useful service in the aftermath. Until the RAF airfield on the Falkland Islands was repaired, an aircraft carrier was required on station to protect the area from possible Argentine attack. Invincible had been on station for many months when Illustrious steamed to its relief.
However, Illustrious was needed so quickly that the ship was actually commissioned whilst underway. Rear Admiral Derek Reffell commanded the relief task group from Illustrious during this period. After the RAF airfield was repaired, Illustrious returned to the UK for a full shakedown cruise and workup period, with a formal commissioning on 20 March 1983.