F-35B Stealth Fighter Jet Lands on UK Royal Navy’s Newest Aircraft Carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth for the First Time

A Royal Navy pilot has landed a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet on the UK Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, for the first time on Sept. 25.

This is the first time an F-35 has ever landed on a non-American vessel. The event, that took place off the east coast of the United States, also marked the return of fixed-wing aircraft operations from Royal Navy carriers after almost an eight-year hiatus.

Janes reported that RN Commander Nathan Gray was at the controls of the first aircraft, BF-05, which landed on the 65,000-tonne carrier and in quick succession Royal Air Force (RAF) Squadron Leader Andy Edgell landed his aircraft, BF-04, on the ship. The flying operations mark the start of more than 500 take-offs and landings set to take place from the warship over the next 11 weeks.

BF-04 and BF-05 belong to the Joint Operational Test Team (JOTT). The team’s mission is to build confidence in the aircraft towards helping clear the F-35 to make the legally mandated advance from Low Rate Initial Production to Full Rate Production. The RAF’s No 17 (Reserve) Test and Evaluation Squadron “Black Knights” comprises ten percent of the test programme in the JOTT.

At Edwards Air Force Base, No 17(R) TES operates alongside the U.S. Air Force’s 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron (31 TES) plus the Marine Corps test unit, Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron VMX-22, which completes the overall construct of the JOTT. The squadron also maintains a close relationship with the 422nd TES at Nellis AFB.

Nearly 200 personnel form the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) — active duty U.S. and U.K. military, DOD civilians as well as contractors from DOD and industry – has joined the ship’s 1,500-person crew for the F-35B flying trials on board Queen Elizabeth, dubbed as First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing), or FOCFT (FW).

During two FOCFT (FW) phases, the team plans to perform a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations to develop the F-35B operating envelope on Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) carriers. They will evaluate jet performance on over 200 test points during different weather and sea conditions as well as the aircraft’s integration with the ship.

A third FOCFT (FW) phase followed by operational testing is scheduled for 2019. Together, the tests will help the U.K. Ministry of Defence reach F-35B initial operating capability (maritime) in 2020.

As a Tier 1 partner in the F-35 program, a group of U.K. personnel have been embedded with the ITF at Pax River and Edwards Air Force Base, California, conducting flight tests since the program’s System Design and Demonstration phase.

To date, the U.K. is home to nine British-owned F-35B Lightnings located at Royal Air Force Marham with the “Dambusters”, or No. 617 Squadron—the RAF’s first F-35B squadron. The RAF is scheduled to declare initial operating capability later this year. In all, the RAF and RN are programmed to purchase 138 F-35Bs over the lifetime of the program.

Queen Elizabeth has completed a 3,400-mile long journey across the Atlantic to the east coast of the USA after departing her homeport of HMNB Portsmouth on Aug. 18. The deployment, known as WESTLANT 18, was the first-time the aircraft carrier has sailed across the Atlantic. The 65,000-tonne carrier arrived at Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Sept. 5 marking her first visit to the U.S.

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.

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