Posted on October 15, 2019
UK F-35B Lightning fighter jets have landed on Britain’s largest warship for the first time.
Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots landed, hovered and took off from HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the Westlant 19 Carrier Strike Group deployment, off the east coast of the United States.
Last year, Lightning jets from the United States successfully completed 500 take-offs and landings with the 65,000-tonne vessel during development trials.
The tests are designed to ensure the aircraft can work effectively with HMS Queen Elizabeth, and involve arming the aircraft with the vessel’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling System.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the event brought the forces another step closer to a “fully operational” UK carrier strike capability.
“The bringing together of the UK Lightnings on the first-in-class HMS Queen Elizabeth paves the way for the world’s most up to date, fully integrated carrier force,” he said.
The F-35B aircraft left the UK on Wednesday to fly across the Atlantic, while the aircraft carrier itself left the UK in August to begin its part in Westlant 19.
When the Carrier Strike Group becomes fully operational, Queen Elizabeth will be escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland and tanker RFA Tideforce.
Merlin and Wildcat helicopters will also join, operated by the Navy and Royal Marine Commandos.
The first pilot to land on board was Wing Commander Adam Curd, Royal Air Force, who had not landed on an aircraft carrier before.
“This is a proud moment not only for me, but the wider team that has brought us to this milestone for maritime aviation and UK defence.”
The UK is expected to declare Initial Operating Capability for Carrier Strike by the end of 2020.
British F-35Bs flew their first operational missions in June.
American F-35B aircraft landed on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last year as part of flight trials off the coast of the United States.