Royal Navy Returns to the Strike Carrier Business with First F-35B Landing


The Royal Navy re-entered the strike carrier business as the first two F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters touched down on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth on September 25. Under the control of Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, the VSTOL aircraft landed on the deck of the supercarrier before taking off using the ship’s ski jump on the first of more than 500 take-offs and landings scheduled over the next 11 weeks.

The F-35B can land vertically(Credit: Royal Navy)

The largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth and its crew of 1,400 sailors, flight crew, and Royal Marines is currently in the Atlantic off the US Eastern Seaboard. This is the ship’s first visit to the United States where it will take onboard the first of up to 24 of the supersonic fighters and carry out joint maneuvers with British and foreign naval vessels.

Though this is the first time a fixed-wing aircraft has landed and taken off from a British warship since HMS Ark Royal was decommissioned in 2011, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots have continued training in the United States on an exchange program to maintain the skill sets needed for carrier operations. This included thousands of hours of simulator practice, test flying the F-35 variants, and working as flight crews aboard US Navy carriers.

F-35B with task force in the distance(Credit: Royal Navy)

The Royal Navy says HMS Queen Elizabeth and the F-35Bs will be put through a number of trials over next next few weeks in various sea and weather conditions as part of a task force that will include the Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth and the US Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Lassen. Afterwards, the carrier will pay a goodwill visit to New York City.

No words can explain how it felt to turn the corner at 500 mph (805 km/h) and see HMS Queen Elizabeth awaiting the arrival of her first F-35 jets. I feel incredibly privileged,” says Commander Gray. “For a naval aviator it is always a special moment when you spot the carrier in the distance, hidden within a gray 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.

F-35B using vectored thrust for takeoff(Credit: Royal Navy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to enter full service in 2021, followed shortly by her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, which is currently completing construction in Scotland.

Source: Royal Navy

Two F-35 fighters in flight(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B approaching HMS Queen Elizabeth(Credit: Royal Navy)

Two F-35B fighters overflying HMS Queen Elizabeth(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B in VSTOL mode(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B with task force in the distance(Credit: Royal Navy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth with training task force(Credit: Royal Navy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth as seen from above(Credit: Royal Navy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth showing her ski jump(Credit: Royal Navy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth replenishing at sea(Credit: Royal Navy)

Bridge island of HMS Queen Elizabeth(Credit: Royal Navy)

The September 25 landing was an historic first for the Royal Navy(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B coming in to land(Credit: Royal Navy)

A second F-35B lands vertically(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35 B fighters on deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B taking off(Credit: Royal Navy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry up to 24 fighters plus helicopters and drones(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B cockpit view(Credit: Royal Navy)

RN Commander Gray(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B powering up for takeoff(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B tied to deck to prevent sliding(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B as seen from the bridge(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B being given go for takeoff(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B arriving(Credit: Royal Navy)

F-35B and HMS Queen Elizabeth pennant number(Credit: Royal Navy)