US and UK team members from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) is set to carry out maiden trials on board the Royal Navy’s newest Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The First of Class Flight Trials (FOCFTs) on board the vessel are expected to be conducted later this year using the first two F-35B Lightning II fighter jets.
Royal Navy commander, and ITF Pax River and Edwards Air Force Base, California UK Personnel team leader Stephen Crockatt said: “It’ll be the return of maritime aviation fixed-wing to the UK.
“We’ll do the [ship] trials and collect the data so next year the UK can do an operational trial. Then the UK will have jets back at sea, a capability we haven’t had in a long time.”
The two aircraft will be piloted by ITF Royal Navy commander Nathan Gray and the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) squadron leader Andrew Edgell.
With the FOCFTs, the Pax River ITF will be conducting F-35 flight trials on board an aircraft carrier of a partner nation for the first time.
The 65,000t HMS Queen Elizabeth is equipped with a flight deck that has been specially built to accommodate and manage the operations of the F-35B jets.
F-35B is the short take off / vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft that are capable of operating from austere bases and a number of air-capable vessels near front-line combat zones.