Air Platforms

F-35Bs land on UK carrier for first time

29 September 2018

Commander Nathan Gray RN performs the first ever F-35B take-off from HMS Queen Elizabeth: a major milestone in the UK's regeneration of its carrier strike capability. Source: Crown Copyright

Key Points

  • F-35Bs flown by UK test pilots have landed on the Royal Navy carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time
  • The event effectively marks the closing of the UK's ‘carrier gap’

A Royal Navy (RN) pilot landed a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter on the UK aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time on 25 September.

The event, which signalled the return of fixed-wing aircraft operations from RN carriers after almost an eight-year hiatus, took place off the east coast of the United States.

RN Commander Nathan Gray was at the controls of the first aircraft, BF-05, to land on the 65,000-tonne carrier and in quick succession Royal Air Force (RAF) Squadron Leader Andy Edgell landed his aircraft, BF-04, on the ship.

In a collection of images of the trials released by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), Cdr Gray can be seen using his aircraft’s lift fan to hover alongside the ship and subsequently bringing it into land. He then made the first ever take-off from Queen Elizabeth by a fixed-wing aircraft using the ship’s ‘ski ramp’.

An MoD spokesman told Jane’s that further deck landings and take-offs continued after 25 September as part of 11 weeks of ‘first-of-class’ flight trials. More than 500 take-offs and touch-downs are set to take place during these trials, with the jets and ship’s crew being put through their paces in a range of weather conditions.

Although the first aircraft to land on the ship were flown by UK pilots, the aircraft were part of the joint pool of instrumented airframes used by the F-35 Integrated Test Force based at US Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland. BF-04 sported the markings of the US Navy/Marine test unit VX-23, which is based at NAS Patuxent River.

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