An Apache attack helicopter landed on board the UK Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time, on June 3, to commence its preliminary ship integration testing.
The helicopter that conducted the first landing belonged to the British Army’s Attack Helicopter Force (AHF) and assigned to 656 Sqn Army Air Corps (AAC).
Under Joint Helicopter Command, the Attack Helicopter will begin a series of tests and evaluations in what is known as the Platform Ship Integration Testing or PSITs for short.
Over a three-day period, the Apache will be assessed for its compatibility with the ship’s operating systems – how it’s manoeuvred around the flight deck and in the cavernous hangars below, maintenance and arming, testing on the giant lifts which bring the aircraft up on deck, along with a host of other tests.
Once the PSITs have been successfully negotiated in Portsmouth, HMS Queen Elizabeth will take to sea with Apache aboard for its sea trials in July where it will conduct landings and take-offs from a pitching and rolling deck.
Only on completion of this, will the Apaches be officially certified to be able to operate from both HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, when she becomes operational.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the 60,000-tonne flagship of the Royal Navy, recently passed her rigorous dry dock inspection at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard in Scotland and returned to her homeport at HMNB Portsmouth.
The carrier is now in preparation for her deployment to the east coast of the USA later this year. ‘WESTLANT 19’ will include ‘operational testing’ with UK F-35B Lightning II fighter jets, following on from last’s year’s ‘developmental tests’ with US trials jets.