The British Royal Navy’s F-35 Lightning II jets have embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier as the service prepares for the fighter aircraft to operate from the sea.
Known as the Dambusters, 617 Squadron also joined the aircraft carrier. They include pilots, engineers, as well as cyberspace and mission support staff.
The UK’s operational strike squadron landed on the carrier for the first time in Portsmouth.
In 2021, the F-35 jets that landed will travel along with the aircraft carrier for its maiden Global Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment.
British Navy 617 Squadron commanding officer commander Mark Sparrow said: “This is the first time the ship’s operational squadron has embarked and worked together.
“The F-35 brings next generation capability to UK Defence through its ability to find, destroy or avoid enemy air defences and enemy aircraft whilst gathering intelligence data.
Following the completion of four weeks of basic sea training, HMS Queen Elizabeth will now undergo intense flying sessions.
The deployments will demonstrate the capability of the jets to defend the aircraft carrier.
During the mission, the jets will conduct combat air patrols from the ship, launching strike missions against a target on short notice.
Once the initial qualification period concludes, the squadron will conduct training missions with HMS Queen Elizabeth and Merlin helicopters of Culdrose-based 820 Naval Air Squadron.
To be conducted later this year, this training mission will prepare them for a second embarkation.
During this embarkation, the squadron will join the carrier and the task group for a training exercise with the US, European and Nato partners.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to return to Portsmouth later this month.