The welcome may have been warm but the weather was particularly cold as the Invincible sailed into Palma yesterday docking as expected at 10a.m. at the Dique del Oeste. Three tugs were needed to manoeuvre the 20'000 ton warship into its berth. Her 1'000 crew hope to find some rest and relaxation in Palma and were hoping yesterday that the weather would take a turn for the better. Quite a number of families of crew members have flown to the island and many are planning mini-holidays. This is Invincible's third visit to Majorca but this is probably her most important because it is the first visit of a Royal Navy vessel of any size to the port of Palma so far this year. The Invincible is now approaching her 20th birthday and she has certainly had a lively career which will probably extend for at least another 10 years. She will always have a special place in the public's heart as one of the vessels which formed the Task Force in the Falklands war. The Invincible was sunk at least twice according to Argentine propaganda and she had a number of lucky escapes. Both Exocet missile strikes which claimed the destroyer Sheffield and the container ship Atlantic Conveyor had been aimed at either the Invincible or the other carrier Hermes. In fact if the Falklands war had taken place six months later she would not have been in the Task Force because she was due to have been sold to the Australian Navy as part of a Defence Review. The sale was later cancelled. She received a fantastic welcome when she returned home from the Falklands in the summer of 1982. Since then she has been engaged in plenty of other operations such as the Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. Despite her age the Invincible now packs an even greater punch. As part of the Defence Review announced by the Blair government the Harriers of the RAF and those of the Flight Air Arm are to be brought under a single command. RAF Harrier embark aboard the Invincible and just two weeks ago the carrier had an air group of 16 Harriers (6 Navy and 10 RAF). The fleet supply ship Fort George had been due to accompany the Invincible but she was forced to cancel her visit. Apart from the Harriers the aircraft carrier has a fleet of Sea King helicopters dedicated to the anti-submarine and Airbourne Early warning role. The Invincible and her sister ships are due to be replaced by two carriers which are much bigger than the Invincible class in 2010.
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