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Operational F-35s arrive aboard Queen Elizabeth

The United Kingdom has for the first time deployed operational Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning strike fighters aboard the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

        Four F-35Bs from 617 Squadron arrived on HMS 
        Queen Elizabeth
         on 9 June.

Four F-35Bs from 617 Squadron arrived on HMS Queen Elizabeth on 9 June.

Four aircraft from the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) 617 Squadron, known as ‘the Dambusters’, arrived on HMS Queen Elizabeth on 9 June following the earlier embarkation of support personnel from the unit.

“We […] have been training hard to be here [on the carrier]”, RN Commander Mark Sparrow, Commanding Officer 617 Squadron, said. “This is the first time the ship’s operational squadron has embarked and worked together.”

As noted by Commander Air on board Queen Elizabeth, Commander Ed Phillips, the arrival of the first operational jets marks a major milestone in the standing-up of the UK’s carrier strike capability ahead of the ship’s first operational deployment in 2021.

“Today is a significant day for HMS Queen Elizabeth on the road to delivering carrier strike operations for the RN. We are at the heart of a world-leading capability for the UK and will soon have on our decks two squadrons of F-35s – from the UK and US [Marine Corps] – plus the protection of a strike group made up of destroyers, frigates, and support ships,” he said.

According to the RN, Queen Elizabeth will now enter an intense period of flying having just successfully completed four weeks of basic sea training. The aim is to demonstrate that the F-35Bs can successfully defend the aircraft carrier by delivering combat air patrols and being ready to launch at short notice.

After the initial qualification period, 617 Sqn will work with Portsmouth-based Queen Elizabeth

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