British Royal Navy sailors have received four new full-size replicas of the F-35 Lightning II jets to enable them to train for operations on the nation's future flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
The replicas are being moved around the tarmac at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose in Cornwall, England, as flight deck teams receive training on working with the fighter jets.
The four life-size F-35 models were purchased by the Royal Naval School of Flight Deck Operations, and can be used alongside the navy’s existing jets and helicopters.
Aircraft handlers can practise moving and marshalling all sizes of jets byoperating the mock-up aircraft carrier flight deck.
Royal Naval School of Flight Deck Operations Embarked Training manager chief petty officer Paul Ranson said: “We need to provide as realistic training as possible before the trainees go to sea.
“Aircraft handlers are vital to the new carrier. Without them, the Royal Navy cannot conduct safe aviation at sea. Flight decks are very dangerous, at sea even more so.
“It’s our job to protect the aircraft and the aircrew flying them. Managing the flight deck is mentally and physically challenging, so the training has to be quite rigorous and as realistic as possible.”
The four F-35 aircraft have no engines, sensors or weaponry, however they will enable the aircraft handlers to accustom themselves with the size and weight of the real jets without the danger of damaging a multi-million-pound aircraft.
The navy's handlers are expected to operate the real F-35 Lightning II aircraft from autumn next year.
Gate Guards UK developed the ground training aids, which are made of fibreglass and equipped with water tanks to simulate fuel and weapons loads between 16t and 24t.
The four 'faux-fighter' jet models have been added to the ‘mini air force’ to carry out training for the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
Two of the four replicas are incorporated with opening cockpits in order to train the navy aircraft handlers to rescue injured pilots in the event of a crash.
Image: The British Royal Navy’s four new replicas of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets. Photo: courtesy of Royal Navy.