The UK’s F-35B Lightning II fighter jets have dropped the first Paveway II test bombs during trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier off the US east coast.
Dropping the 500lb inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided precision bombs carrying no explosives represents another key in the carrier’s trials.
Through the exercise, the trials teams could gather crucial test data and assess how the jets perform when carrying various weights.
The US-made bombs comprise a head, containing the bomb’s computer, the tail and a concrete warhead.
As part of the cooperation between the UK and the US, the bombs are being built on-board by Royal Navy air engineers, under the supervision of US Navy ordnance ratings from the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower.
HMS Queen Elizabeth air engineering department head commander Neil Mathieson said: “It makes me excited about operational trials next year with the UK’s F-35 Lightning squadrons when we will see live Paveways being dropped. These trials are an important pathway to that point.”
Due to the carrier’s automated technology, around 40 people are enough to make an F-35 Lightning jet ready for combat operations.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently progressing with flying trials on a deployment called Westlant 18. The carrier is expected to be ready for global operations from 2021.
Meanwhile, construction work is nearing completion on the Royal Navy’s other new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales at the Rosyth Dockyard.
The new aircraft carriers will be deployed for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. In addition, they will be used to support British Armed Forces deployed worldwide.