The British Royal Navy’s F-35 Lightning II combat jets have started flight trials with the first landing and take-off from the lead aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The flying operations are conducted together with the US Navy and represent the beginning of more than 500 take-offs and landings to be carried out from HMS Queen Elizabeth over the next 11 weeks.
Royal Navy commander Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force (RAF) Squadron leader Andy Edgell were the first Lightning II pilots to land the aircraft on board the aircraft carrier, while Gray was the first F-35 pilot to take-off from the vessel using its ski ramp.
UK Carrier Strike Group commander commodore Andrew Betton said: “The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers have been specifically designed and built to operate the F-35, offering an immensely flexible and potent combination to deliver military effect around the world.”
Following successful completion of the test flights, the new supersonic jets will be deployed with UK Armed Forces to conduct Carrier Strike operations for more than 50 years.
The country will gain its Carrier Strike capabilities eight years after a fighter jet last landed on a UK aircraft carrier.
Expected to be deployed on global operations from 2021, HMS Queen Elizabeth has the capacity to accommodate a fleet of up to 24 F-35 fighter aircraft.
In August, the aircraft carrier sailed from its home port of Portsmouth to travel to the US to conduct the flight trials, in addition to receiving joint training with the US Navy.
To date, the UK has received 16 from a planned 138 F-35 fighters to be deployed by the navy and airforce.