The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious has arrived in Malta for a four day visit.

The carrier sailed into Grand Harbour with her sailors lining the flight deck and a small band playing.

Her return coincides with the conclusion of a twinning agreement between the ship and the Three Cities, which will formalise the close bond shared for over 60 years.

The previous HMS Illustrious helped escort convoys to Malta in the second world war and was heavily bombed during one such operation in January 1941. She limped to Malta and berthed alongside Parlatorio Wharf (now No6 dock) for urgent repairs. German and Italian aircraft tried to sink her there but failed, thanks mostly to a box barrage of anti-aircraft guns mounted around her. Those raids, however, devastated the dockyard and the three cities, notably Senglea. Illustrious later slipped out of Malta to Alexandria and then the UNited States for major repairs.

The current Illustrious, a sister ship to Ark Royal and Invincible, operates Harrier jump jets and Merlin helicopters.

It is currently involved in the ORION 08 deployment, a multi-national maritime Task Group centred on the aircraft carrier. Deploying from the UK to the Indian Ocean, the task group consists of more than 2,500 personnel, 13 ships, a nuclear powered submarine, Harrier jump jets and Merlin and Lynx helicopters. The French, Spanish and US Navies are all contributing ships and aircraft to the group, which is under the Operational Control of the Royal Navy. O

The Task Group shall conduct a wide range of training activities including anti-submarine warfare and ground attack support from Harrier Aircraft. In addition, it will contribute towards international efforts to promote maritime security in the region.

The Task group is commanded by Commodore Tom Cunningham Royal Navy.


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