F-35 Lightning Jets have completed takeoffs and landings aboard the next generation HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.
The Lightning jets landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to begin operational trials off the East Coast of the USA. The jets were flown by RAF and Royal Navy pilots and the trials will test compatibility with the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The trials will include flying missions, arming the aircraft using Queen Elizabeth’s Highly Automated Weapons System, mission planning, and debriefing upon completion. The landings are part of the WESTLANT 19 Carrier Strike Group Deployment, which aims to form a group capable of working on many platforms alongside allies.
Air-Vice Marshall Harvey Smyth, RAF Air Officer Commanding Number 1 Group, said: “WESTLANT19 marks an extremely significant milestone on our 10-year journey to establishing our renewed Carrier Strike capability.”
“Bringing our own Lightnings onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time gives us the opportunity to conduct critical operational testing. With the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force operating so closely together, these are incredibly exciting times for embarked Combat Air.”
The UK will declare Initial Operating Capability for Carrier Strike by the end of 2020. The first operational deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth 617 Squadron and a squadron of US Marine Corps Lightning jets is due to take place in 2021.
The F-35 is the first jet to combine radar evading stealth technology with supersonic speed, as well as the ability to land vertically. The UK currently owns 18 aircraft, with an additional order placed for 30 jets.
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