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Air Platforms

First F-35B SRVL recovery completed on HMS Queen Elizabeth

15 October 2018
Frame from a merged photo sequence showing the first SRVL recovery on to HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Key Points

  • An F-35B made the first SRVL recovery on to HMS Queen Elizabeth on 13 October
  • SRVLs allow F-35Bs to make carrier landings with heavier loads, avoiding the need to jettison fuel and/or weapons

An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter has executed a first shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) onto the Royal Navy (RN) aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth during first-of-class flying trials (FOCFT) off the east coast of the United States.

The milestone SRVL recovery was performed on 13 October by BAE Systems test pilot Peter 'Wizzer' Wilson.

Whereas a vertical landing is intended as the primary recovery mode for the F-35B on board the Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) carriers, the size and arrangement of the QEC flight deck has opened up the opportunity to use SRVL as an alternative recovery manoeuvre. By exploiting the ability of the F-35B to use vectored thrust to maintain limited forward speed until after touchdown, an SRVL allows for a significant increase in 'bring- back' payload compared with a standard vertical landing, as well as reducing deck wear and extending engine life.

However, it is acknowledged that an SRVL recovery presents some inherent risk, given that the F-35B must approach the ship from aft, at speed, on a precise glide slope. Also, with no arrestor equipment, the aircraft must use its own brakes to stop when on the deck.

Additionally, the SRVL manoeuvre demands close co-operation with the landing signal officer (LSO) located in the flying control office in the carrier's aft island. A naval aviator, the LSO monitors the aircraft's approach to the deck to check that the glide slope, airspeed, attitude, and line-up remain within normal parameters. The LSO will communicate a 'wave-off' signal to the pilot in the event of an unsafe approach, prompting the pilot to abandon the landing and 'go around' for a second attempt.

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