F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft have landed and taken off from the British Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier during operational trials off the east coast of the US.

The country’s next-generation aircraft carrier is currently undergoing operational trials. The navy’s largest vessel left for the US in August to take part in Westlant 19 alongside the US Navy.

The landing of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) F-35 fifth-generation combat aircraft on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth marks a key milestone in the creation of a fully operational carrier strike group.

The trials are intended to ensure that the F-35Bs are compatible with the lead-ship of the Queen Elizabeth-class of carriers.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This is another step towards the UK’s carrier strike capability becoming fully operational.

“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.”

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The RAF’s 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron will handle the trials. The squadron is made up of personnel from the navy and air force.

The British Lightning Force, based out of RAF Marham, is also participating in the trials.

During the Westlant 18 deployment, the aircraft carrier conducted developmental trials with US F-35s.

The deployment saw the navy conducting a series of trials involving 500 takeoffs and landings over an 11-week period.

In addition to the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the carrier strike group includes Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland. Tanker RFA Tideforce will support the strike group.

The carrier strike group also consists of Royal Marines, Merlin anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and Merlin Mark 4 helicopters.