HMS Queen Elizabeth to conduct F-35 flight trials in UK waters

27 January 2020 (Last Updated January 27th, 2020 12:31)

The British Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set to commence trials with the newly-built F-35 Lightning II fighter jets in UK waters for the first time.

HMS Queen Elizabeth to conduct F-35 flight trials in UK waters
UK Carrier Strike is due to declare initial operating capability (IOC) in 2021. Image: Royal Navy/ Copyright.

The British Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is set to commence trials with the newly-built F-35 Lightning II fighter jets in UK waters for the first time.

HMS Queen Elizabeth has already sailed from its Portsmouth homeport for testing.

It is being carried out by 207 Squadron, a joint Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF) Lightning Force Training unit.

The fast jet trials will include to and fro, day and night flights from the carrier’s deck. The aircraft will take-off from the RAF Marham base.

Six pilots from the British Navy and RAF will participate in the aircraft carrier qualifications.

These flights will allow the pilots to familiarise themselves with the landing process on the carrier’s 4.5-acre deck under different conditions.

With the vessel specifically built to fly the jet, the flight demonstrations will also test HMS Queen Elizabeth’s crew and systems.

HMS Queen Elizabeth commanding officer captain Angus Essenhigh said: “It is a real honour for me to be taking HMS Queen Elizabeth to sea for the first time as her new commanding officer.

“This period at sea will build on the successes of the Westlant 19 deployment, providing a fantastic opportunity for the ship to further its generation towards carrier strike, and will train and qualify UK F-35 pilots in UK waters for the very first time.”

The first maritime flight tests were conducted by the UK Lightning Force last year.

In 2018 and 2019, trials of the 65,000t vessel with the jets were limited to the Atlantic.

HMS Queen Elizabeth flight deck officer lieutenant commander Richard Turrell said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to further integrate and qualify UK F-35 pilots, ground crews and aircraft onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters.

“My team is excited to get to see and continue the development of our ship to air wing partnership throughout 2020 and beyond to deploying with full carrier strike capability in 2021.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, was commissioned into the fleet in December.