The UK Royal Navy’s newest Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set to carry out jet trials using F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft.
The 65,000t navy vessel has sailed from its home port of Portsmouth in the UK to travel to the US, where two ‘orange wired’ F-35B test aircraft will land on board the aircraft carrier for the first time.
As part of the F-35B flight trials, HMS Queen Elizabeth will embark the short take-off / vertical landing (STOVL) variants of the fast jet from the Integrated Test Force (ITF) based out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, US.
UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth is a true statement of our national power, and the whole country can be proud to see this magnificent symbol of our engineering prowess and international ambition leaving port to sail onto the world stage.
“Her voyage to America not only shows her global reach, but strengthens our special relationship with the US forces who we have worked hand-in-hand with on this iconic programme.”
During the 11-week at-sea trial period, the two test aircraft are expected to carry out a total of 500 take-offs and landings. They will be supported by nearly 200 staff members, including pilots, engineers, maintainers and data analysts.
Using the specially equipped fighter jets and sensors on board the aircraft carrier, the initial or developmental trials will be conducted to assess the operating parameters of the aircraft and the vessel under a wide range of test conditions.
Three F-35B Lightning II developmental test pilots from the UK and one from the US will be assigned to conduct the test flights.
Furthermore, operational testing of the UK’s F-35B fighter jets is slated to be carried out on board the HMS Queen Elizabeth next year.