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UK carrier set for F-35B trials
HMS Queen Elizabeth © Royal Navy

UK carrier set for F-35B trials

HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail to the U.S. later this month for initial deck trials with two F-35B test aircraft.

The Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will sail to the U.S. later this month for initial trials with the F-35B. The carrier will embark two F-35B test aircraft from the Integrated Test Force (ITF) based out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

Around 200 supporting staff, including pilots, engineers, maintainers and data analysts will be joined by two ‘orange wired’ test aircraft, belonging to the ITF, which are expected to conduct 500 take offs and landings during their 11-week period at sea.

The aim of these initial trials is to ascertain the operating parameters of the aircraft and ship, in a range of conditions. Similar trials were conducted by HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea earlier this year for rotary wing aircraft.

Four F 35B Lightning developmental test pilots, who are members of the ITF, will embark to fly the aircraft; three British, one American. The British personnel comprise a Royal Navy Commander, a Squadron Leader from the Royal Air Force and one civilian test pilot. They will be joined by a Major from the US Marine Corps.

The trials follow the recent arrival into the UK of the first joint Royal Navy, Royal Air Force F-35B jets, based at RAF Marham. ‘Operational testing’, utilising British F-35B aircraft, is scheduled to take place on board HMS Queen Elizabeth next year.

The deployment, known as ‘WESTLANT 18’, will be the first time HMS Queen Elizabeth will have sailed across the Atlantic. As well as the deck trials, it will also involve exercises to prove the ability to operate with other nations’ maritime and aviation assets, as well as the landing of Royal Marines and their equipment ashore in the U.S., to conduct training with their US counterparts.

The ship will be joined by RFA Tiderace and Plymouth-based type-23 frigate HMS Monmouth, as well as Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, Mk 4 Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton and a contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Plymouth.

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