UK Resumes Carrier-Borne Fighter Operations in Home Waters


Published Jan 29, 2020 5:13 PM by Royal Navy News

British F-35B Lightning jets have flown from the decks of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters, the first time fighter jets have operated from a British carrier in home waters in a decade.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is in the North Sea conducting carrier qualification for Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots from the UK Lightning Force, based out of RAF Marham in Norfolk.

The jets are flying daily to and from the ship’s 4.5-acre deck, giving the pilots vital experience in operating from a floating airfield in both daylight and at night, some for the very first time. It also provides further training for the ship’s crew, who have previously conducted trials with UK and US Marine Corps Lightnings in the USA.

“We have proven the range at which we can operate HMS Queen Elizabeth together with her jets, having spent the past two autumns in the USA. There is now tremendous training value to be gained for both my ship’s company and the Lightning Force team at RAF Marham as we work together to operate our jets to and from the ship from their land base," said the Queen Elizabeth's new commanding officer, Captain Angus Essenhigh.

“The value of operating in home waters is obvious and will unlock further planned training periods. Over the coming weeks on Exercise Lightning Fury, 207 Squadron Qualified Flying Instructors will be achieving essential carrier flying and Landing Signals Officer (LSO) supervisory qualifications," said Officer Commanding 207 Squadron, Wing Commander Scott Williams. "This is a really fantastic opportunity for all of us, and we are very much looking forward to getting experience that will underpin our Carrier Strike capability in the decades to come."

HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Lightning Force will continue training through the year, preparing for their first operational deployment to the Far East in 2021. On that mission, they will be accompanied by a squadron of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightnings.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.