She was built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering. She was laid down in 1973, and launched on 3 May 1977. The ship commissioned on July 11, 1980, and joined the older carriers Hermes and Bulwark in service. Invincible was intended for sale to the Royal Australian Navy as a replacement for HMAS Melbourne (when she would likely have been renamed HMAS Australia). However, Invincible's central role in the Falklands War led to the sale being cancelled.
After 25 years of service she sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base for the last time on 1 August 2005. HMS Illustrious succeeded Invincible as the service's flagship.