ABOARD THE HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, Atlantic Ocean, (BulgarianMilitary.com) – Last Tuesday, on 25 September, the U.K. Royal Navy marked a historic milestone by carrying out the first F-35B aircraft landing on the deck of the Britain’s aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, which at the same time was patrolling on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
The first operation is the beginning of the Royal Navy’s two-month developmental limited trials that will test the F-35B jets’ landing capabilities in different weather conditions. During the last week tests, the F-35B Lightning II aircraft were flown by two British Royal Navy pilots – Commander Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Andy Edgell. Commander Nathan Gray also performed and take off from the Queen Elizabeth’ ski-ramp, due to the F-35B’s STOVL (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing) capability.
The U.K. £3 billion program for two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers was initially announced in 2007 and after a delay of several years, caused by some cost issues and naval shipbuilding restructuring, finally, late last year, the U.K. Royal Navy successfully has put the first one into operation with the second slated to be commissioned in 2020. Originally, the both carriers are planned to be completed in a STOVL configuration by deploying Lockheed Martin’s F-35B. Up to now, Britain has received 16 of its 138 ordered F-35Bs.
In a statement of Gavin Williamson, the U.K. Defense Secretary, he said that the historic F-35B aircraft landing on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth is an important moment in the U.K.’s military history that affirms “Britain’s determination to promote peace and prevent war,” and marks the rebirth of the U.K. Naval power.
Returned to Britain, the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier will be upgraded with the Phalanx close-in weapons system as well as new communications suite. After that it’s back to the United States for more trials.
Speaking on the topic, the founding Managing Director of the defense consultancy the FerryBridge Group, Bryan McGrath, said:
“Given the rise in importance of the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, having two capable aircraft carriers from the Royal Navy, in addition to the French Charles de Gaulle, creates a situation where our aircraft carriers won’t have to share the load alone. And the fact that the aircraft are F-35Bs is a huge plus,”
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