A British test pilot has created history by conducting the first shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) of the F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet on board Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth this weekend.
The first SRVL was conducted by Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, a BAE Systems test pilot with the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF), and took place at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 13, 2018, off the east coast of the U.S. He piloted F-35B test aircraft, BF-04, during the maneuver.
— Royal Navy (@RoyalNavy) October 14, 2018
A rolling landing requires the jet to make a more conventional approach, approaching the ship from behind at speed, before using thrust from its nozzle and lift created by air over the wings to touch down and stop. During the first SRVL, the jet conducted touch-down at 755 yards back from the end of the carrier’s ski jump and came to a complete standstill at the 580 yard mark.
“I’m excited and thrilled to have achieved this, the whole team is,” Wilson said. “It’s an inherently risky maneuver. We have always understood it is safer to stop before you land than it is to land before you stop and the prime reason for that is that if something goes wrong with the airplane it is far better for it to be stationary than a rolling wreckage. I’ve worked on this for the past 17 years; it’s fantastic to know that it’s matched the modelling and simulation we have done over the years. I’ve flown over 2,000 SRVLs in the simulator, and am honored to have been able to do the first one onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth here today.”
The UK is the only nation currently planning to use the SRVL maneuver, which will allow jets to land onboard with heavier loads, meaning they won’t need to jettison expensive fuel and weapons before landing.
The UK’s newest F-35 stealth aircraft conducted their maiden landing on board the vessel last month. Previously the jets have conducted vertical landings, coming to a hover to the side of the ship, translating sideways over the deck, before gently lowering to land. It is regarded as a safer method to reduce speed before the jet lands in this way, rather than landing on at speed and coming to a stop before it runs out of deck.
Flight trials for the jets are ongoing off the east coast of the United States, where the 65,000-tonne warship is currently on a deployment called Westlant 18, along with escorts – HMS Monmouth (F235), a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, and USS Lassen (DDG-82), a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. More than 1,400 sailors, flight crew and Royal Marines have been working on board the carrier during her deployment.
HMS Queen Elizabeth also has embarked Merlin Mk 2 (AgustaWestland AW101) anti-submarine helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron from RNAS Culdrose, and Mk 4 Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton, conducting Search & Rescue (SAR) and Helicopter Delivery Services.
The Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will project British military power across the globe for the next half a century. Construction work continues at a pace on board HMS Prince of Wales, the second aircraft carrier in the class, which nears completion at the Rosyth shipbuilding yard.
They will be used to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, strengthen defence relationships with our nation’s allies, and support British armed forces deployed around the world.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is on track to deploy on global operations from 2021.