The Royal Navy Type 45 Daring-class destroyer HMS Dragon has become the first Royal Navy destroyer to work alongside F-35 Lightning jets on operations in the Middle East.
The Portsmouth-based destroyer is working with the stealth fighter aircraft currently flying from the U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, USS Essex (LHD-2).
The commanding officer described the ship’s landmark involvement with the F-35s as ‘exciting’ for the future of UK carrier strike group operations.
Currently in the Gulf, Dragon welcomed the jets as part of her time working for the U.S. Commander Task Force (CTF) 51/5 – providing air defence to USS Essex. Operating with the F-35s will be standard procedure for the Type 45 destroyers in the future so working with the task force was a chance for crew to get an understanding of tactics, techniques and procedures for working with the jets. This knowledge will then be used for future Carrier Strike Group (CSG) operations, making CTF 51/5 and Dragon’s involvement as an air defence destroyer invaluable.
Commander Michael Carter-Quinn, Dragon’s Commanding Officer, said: “Having trained as a fighter controller, and controlled harrier jump jets while serving on board HMS Invincible, it has been a great honour to command HMS Dragon to provide air defence duties to our US Navy colleagues.
“The step change in performance and range of roles the F-35s can provide is impressive, and to be able to work with these aircraft now in preparation for supporting the integration of the Queen Elizabeth-class, Type 45s and F-35s into the carrier strike group is exciting.”
Dragon sailed from Portsmouth in September and CTF 51/5 has been part of the UK and Royal Navy’s commitment to supporting operations in the Middle East as part of coalition efforts and ensuring the safety and security of the Gulf and wider Middle East.
As part of the tasking, Dragon’s Fighter Controller Lieutenant Ryan Slater and one of Dragon’s trainee officers, Sub Lieutenant Cameron Osborn embarked on USS Essex, a US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.
SLt Osborn said: “When on board USS Essex, it was clear to see the professionalism and adaptability of the crew and embarked forces.
“The capability offered by F-35s is a step change in modern warfare and we had the opportunity to be the first Type 45 destroyer to operate with F-35s, developing future techniques and procedures to be used within UK carrier strike group operations.”
Since deploying, Dragon has taken part in various exercises and tasking across the Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea.