Photos: First UK Fighters Land on New Royal Navy Carrier

All images courtesy Royal Navy

Published Oct 15, 2019 2:03 PM by Royal Navy News

UK F-35 Lightning fighter jets have landed on the new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time, and they are now gearing up for a vital testing phase on the aircraft carrier’s Westlant 19 deployment.

The jets – flown by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots – recently touched down on the new carrier as she continues her work off the east coast of the United States. Now that they are on board, the aim is to get them ready for operations from the carrier, which will become fully operational in 2021. 

“Getting to this point of embarking UK F-35 jets into our British-built carrier has been a significant joint undertaking by industry and military – both ours, and those from the United States,” said Commander of the Strike Group, Commodore Mike Utley. “We will take the jets from the successful developmental phase we achieved last year through to a more operational footing, so we are confident that the jets, the carrier and our destroyers and frigates will function seamlessly together.” 

All images courtesy Royal Navy

During last year’s deployment, jets from the USA were used for developmental trials, with 500 takes offs and landings taking place during 11 weeks at sea. This time around it’s about planning sorties, arming the aircraft using the carrier’s weapons handling system and debriefing on the success of each phase.

During this exercise, the aircraft carrier will be escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlins from 814, 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons, Wildcats from 815 squadron and Royal Marines from Lima Company, 42 Commando.

“Embarking UK Lightning jets [on] HMS Queen Elizabeth for the very first time is a major milestone for Royal Navy and Royal Air Force aviation and for our development of the 5th generation Carrier Strike Group capability," said Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff for Aviation Rear Admiral Martin Connell. “Once again, the support from our U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps colleagues in the United States has been incredible and undoubtedly helped bring us to this moment: making maritime aviation history.”

The UK will declare Initial Operating Capability for Carrier Strike by the end of 2020. The first operational deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth 617 Squadron and a squadron of U.S. Marine Corps Lightning jets is due to take place in 2021.