The UK Royal Navy’s (RN's) new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from its homeport in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on 2 February to begin helicopter trials.
The trials, which will be carried out with two Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook transport helicopters and two AgustaWestland Merlin HMA2 maritime helicopters, are being overseen by specialist personnel from the UK Ministry of Defence’s test and evaluation organisation at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. All four test helicopters are fitted with specialised instrumentation.
According to Captain Jerry Kyd, Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, the trials will involve operating the helicopters from the ship in all weather conditions and fully testing the myriad of onboard systems that are designed to support aviation. “This is an important milestone in the ship’s progression towards embarking the Lockheed Martin F35-B Lightning jets later this year, and ultimately the achievement of carrier strike capability,” he said.
Helicopters have previously landed on Queen Elizabeth to transfer essential stores and personnel, but were not based on the ship for extended periods.
In addition to the four trial helicopters, two Merlin HM2s and a 70-strong detachment from the ship’s permanently assigned anti-submarine unit, 820 Naval Air Squadron, are to be embarked during the trials for force protection.
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