Fast fighter jets are once again flying from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier as the first F-35s have landed on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to make history by landing their F-35 Lightning stealth jets on the flight deck of Britain’s newest carrier. Shortly afterwards, Commander Gray became the first pilot to take off using the ship’s ski ramp. 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.
Speaking shortly after the first landing on Tuesday 25 September 2018, Commander Gray said: “No words can explain how it felt to turn the corner at 500mph and see HMS Queen Elizabeth awaiting the arrival of her first F-35 jets. I feel incredibly privileged. For a naval aviator it is always a special moment when you spot the carrier in the distance, hidden within a grey expanse of ocean. HMS Queen Elizabeth is a floating city, home to hundreds of fellow sailors and Royal Marines, and it’s been a particularly poignant day.”
Able to embark up to 24 of the supersonic jets, HMS Queen Elizabeth provides the Royal Navy with a capability possessed by few others. The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers have been specifically designed and built to operate the F-35, offering an immensely flexible and potent combination to deliver military effect around the world. The Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, which is nears completion, will project British military power across the globe for the next half a century.
Squadron Leader Edgell added: “It has taken an indescribable level of dogged determination and perseverance to achieve this incredible moment. We have written a little piece of history today, but look beyond this and are focusing now on what will be an extensive period of F-35 testing at sea.”
The jets will be put through their paces over the coming weeks in a range of sea and weather conditions. Having then completed the trials, which are taking place off the east coast of the United States, the giant aircraft carrier is expected to visit New York. HMS Queen Elizabeth left her home port of Portsmouth in August, crossing the Atlantic to conduct the flying trials as well as training with the US Navy.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is on track to deploy on global operations from 2021. Meanwhile, the UK has now taken delivery of 16 out of a planned 138 F-35 jets as part of its world-leading fleet of military aircraft for use by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Source, photo and video credits: Royal Navy, UK MoD Crown Copyright