The British Royal Navy’s newest Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set to begin its first helicopter trials at sea.
A pair of Chinook helicopters from the Aircraft Test and Evaluation facility at the MoD Boscombe Down have landed on-board the aircraft carrier in preparation for the trials.
HMS Queen Elizabeth commanding officer captain Jerry Kyd said: “After the excitement of our commissioning ceremony in December, my ship’s company and our industry partners are looking forward to taking the ship to sea to conduct first of class rotary-wing flying trials.
“These trials will involve operating different types of helicopter from the ship in all weather conditions and fully testing the myriad of onboard systems that are designed to support aviation.
“This is an important milestone in the ship’s progression towards embarking the F35-B Lightning jets later this year, and ultimately the achievement of carrier strike capability.”
The helicopter trials will allow personnel to work out the conditions required to enable the aircraft to operate successfully during deployment at sea on-board HMS Queen Elizabeth.
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The navy will collect relevant information regarding landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in varied wind and sea conditions as part of the initiative.
Data from the trial programme will then be processed before the vessel is declared capable of facilitating the helicopters’ safe operation.
The maiden helicopter trials will be conducted prior to carrying out the fixed-wing F35 Lightning II trials, which are scheduled for later this year.
The navy ship is expected to be declared safe to operate Chinook, Merlin Mk2, Merlin Mk3, Merlin Mk4, Wildcat and Apache attack helicopters following the successful completion of the trials, in addition to fast jets.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to be joined by two Merlin Mk2 aircraft at a later date.
All four helicopters will carry specialist testing equipment during the test period.