HMS Illustrious has sailed from Portsmouth for training and cold weather exercises in the North Sea and fjords of Norway. With the carrier strike role discontinued in the infamous SDSR cuts she has since adopted a new role as a helicopter carrier.
During two-months away HMS Illustrious will initially operate Apache attack helicopters of 656 Squadron Army Air Corps alongside Sea Kings of 848 NAS in the North Sea. She will subsequently embark the Sea Kings of 845 NAS and 846 NAS, plus commando Lynx of 847 NAS. Also joining the ship for Cold Response will be Royal Marines from 42 Commando. Illustrious will be accompanied by HM Ships Bulwark and Liverpool.
The NATO exercise will culminate in the second week of March, with the participation of warships from Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden and Dutch and American troops.