It has been confirmed that the first F-35B night sorties from HMS Queen Elizabeth took place just two days after the first landing.
The news is indicative of the ‘high confidence and safety designed into the F-35B and [the] Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers’ according to Wing Commander Scott Williams.
#F35B flying trials progressing well, with both day & night sorties now off @HMSQnlz Another pic to demonstrate the awesome capability for @RoyalAirForce & @RoyalNavy …makes us proud in @DefenceES …enlarge & see another jet on deck. pic.twitter.com/HbdY7ZaYt5
— COM(Air) DE&S (@Chf_Eng_Air) October 1, 2018
Night landings are far more challenging than day time sorties, despite the fact that F-35 helmets provide night vision through the use of an integrated camera.
A senior source close to the trials told me:
“Ultimately approaches to the ship are visually flown in the final stages – within 2 miles, roughly – so the balance is having just enough lighting to ensure pilot perspective and orientation is maintained (safety of pilot; of aircraft; and also of ship and its complement) but not be lit up like a Xmas Tree so that it isn’t tactical. After all, she’s a warship!
Getting that balance of light requires a well-judged Test Plan. The pilots who landed on by day were able to quickly conduct their day Carrier Qualification (known as CQ) then rapidly transition to Night CQ so that expansion of night test points can be done. They did this in only a few short days whereas ordinarily this would be a week or more’
The ship’s design – it’s lighting, layout, approach aids, as well as the F35B’s handling and relatively low workload around the ship compared to legacy STOVL aircraft – allowed a safe, rapid move to night flying. It’s impressive. Seriously exciting”