Pictures released by the MOD show UK F-35 Lightning jets landing, taking off and hovering onboard Britain’s next generation aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.
Flown by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots, the Lightning jets are embarking in the 65,000 tonne carrier to conduct operational trials off the East Coast of the USA.
This follows successful developmental trials last year with US Lightning jets, where forces conducted 500 take offs and landings over their 11-week period at sea.
These trials are aimed at ‘end-to-end’ testing of the aircraft and personnel to ensure the aircraft are compatible with the carrier. The tests involve mission planning, arming the aircraft using the ship’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, flying missions and debriefing on completion.
The landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth are part of the ‘WESTLANT 19’ Carrier Strike Group deployment. Once fully operational, UK Carrier Strike Group will be a formidable force around the world, using a number of platforms to work alongside our allies.
During this time, the aircraft carrier will be escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlins from 814, 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons, Wildcats from 815 squadron and Royal Marines from Lima Company, 42 Commando.