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.

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”

45 COMMENTS

  1. A- MA- ZING!
    Things seem to be going brilliantly.

    The plane in that photo BF04. I’m obviously mistaken as it has US marking but I thought that was a British F35?

      • (Chris H) Daniele – The BF-04 aircraft was visually ‘neutral’ as it had no US nose markings and displayed that special ‘QE’ tail logo in colour. The only indication it was a US aircraft was the ‘Marines’ under the tail. I think someone at least tried to get a good media image for that first landing so fair play to them. the other aircraft had partial (for which read taped over!) US nose markings and a grey scale ‘QE’ tail logo.

        • Thanks Chris.

          I was getting BF confused in my mind with BK. BK 1, 2, 4 are the Brit test aircraft I believe.

    • Danielle… The F35s used for the FOC trials pictured onboard QNLZ are US aircraft, wired with additional equipment/telemetry for the trials package. I believe the British trials team has some aircraft so equipped, but these are based in Calfornia (on the otherside of a massive country) and are engaged in their own testing and development programme… hence the american-badged aircraft arriving onboard. To have British-badged aircraft would have been noting more than symbollic… but probably have added cost and delays to the programme.

      • I think by now we all know the facts (and Danielle would be the first to agree), but I think we’d all have liked it to have been a British Jet doing the trials! Although, it’s worth noting as you pointed out, that our own test aircraft have their own agenda and the economic costs of moving them would be large.

        It’s only symbolic and doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. What is clear is that the trials are progressing well, and the lessons learned during the build of QE has significantly improved the build process of POW.

        Fantastic work by all involved, let’s hope the trials continue with success.

    • There is a joint “pool” of aircraft used by the the UK and the US. Whichever aircraft was readily available is being used.

    • Could also be joint warrior 2018 which had quite a large ASW exercise in it. The RN do try, I think they moved or cancelled an exercise in that because of a pod of whales (east coast I think), but what can you do when there’s legitimate defence concerns involved you need to be ready for? I’d guess that’s a common dilemma for the RN.

  2. I have just seen the video of the full size mock up of the unmanned V-247 tilt rotor that Bell showed at Modern Day Marine, Quantico.
    This is a strike platform with a 1300 mile+ combat radius. The F-35B has a 390-450 mile combat radius. The V-247 can strike deep inland targets that the F-35B cannot reach.
    Of course, the UK MoD has no money now, but perhaps a decade from now, when/if the V-247 becomes a reality, money might be found for a few on QE/PoW.

      • Its 1400 nmi range according to Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_V-247_Vigilant

        What’s actually of far more interest is the use of V-247 as an AEW replacement for Crowsnest. Target service ceiling is 10,000 feet higher than Merlin at 25,000 feet and it has a target endurance of 17 hours over the 1400 nmi range, presumably similar or greater if circling around a carrier group. AEW is apparently the USMC’s primary requirement for the craft as USMC has no AEW capability of its own.

        More discussed on the Warzone https://bit.ly/2QqOuMN quote: “What the Marines refer to as “Offensive Air Support” is relatively low on their priority list for the MUX drone, ranked fifth out of seven total potential missions for the system, according to documents the service publicly released in June 2018. An airborne early warning platform is the Corps’ most pressing demand as it is a capability the Marines presently rely on other services to provide.”

        More still regarding the mission profiles the V-247 might address https://bit.ly/2NWYUXI

      • An interesting point. It can be refuelled, but I guess if the cost is low enough it could be a one-way trip then self-destruct, as opposed to a manned flight!

        • I can only go by what the company rep said. He claimed the V-247 can strike a target 1300 miles away without refuelling. He also said it can loiter for 8 hours at 350 miles from its base ship.

    • The V-247 is a concept aircraft funded by Bell Helicopter who hope to sell it to the Marines. It has no DOD sponsorship and no DOD funding. It’s mission (combat) radius is 450 nautical miles, same as a V-22. It is not seen as a strike platform but to provide ISR.

      • It is very much seen as a strike platform in addition to ISR, hence its recent roll out festooned with missiles both for land attack and self defence.

      • The V247 has been designed for the USMC who are asking for a multi-role drone that can be used from their Wasp class LHDs. The V247 prototype can do both ISR and CAS, but it also has a hook attachment to carry external loads.
        It uses a different method of rotating the prop-rotors which keeps the engine in a fixed horizontal plane and instead rotates the gearbox. This is to reduce the dust generated by the engines exhaust as well as reducing the ground temperature when operating from steel decks. It still uses the same rotating wing style and folding prop-rotors as the V22, but the V247’s size means it can operate from frigate/destroyer decks as well.
        I really hope that Bell gets the contract from the USMC as I believe this aircraft could be a game changer for us as well. This aircraft could fulfil many roles for the Navy from ASW, AEW, Surface Surveillance and Targeting, Vertical Replenishment etc.

        • There is an item on the Bell V-247 at Aviation Week. It is aimed at the USMC Group 5 UAS competition. As well as strike (they are sticking to the fly 1300 miles to a key target, engage & return to ship without refueling claim), it can also be used for electronic warfare, can carry a sigint pod, or drop sonobuoys.
          It is claimed to have a similar ship footprint to a UH-1Y.

  3. Evening all
    Baby steps boys and girls but it shows that when HMG, specifically MoD through the military want to do something we can actually do it quite well, all is on track – there will be bumps on the way but it shows if you truly believe in something you will deliver it…..can’t quite remember who I am quoting but I think it’s quite topical at the moment in the Birmingham area 😂

  4. It will be a great feeling for Britain to have aircraft carrier strike capabilities again, and it will do our country’s prestige no end of good on the World stage to. I look forward to seeing them roam the high seas loaded with F35s.

  5. Och for Heaven’s sake slow it down, at this rate the QE will be ready for emergency deployment next year 🙁 Shocking, what will the pig ignorant MSM moan about instead?

    Really, the RN and RAF don’t have the best interests of sensationalist pessimists at heart 🙁

      • Yes but that is not how I read that Nigel.

        “Take out” does not mean launch a preemptive strike to destroy them as I think the sensationalist headline suggests, but to develop a counter weapon in the event of war to destroy them.

        As in the Cold War. USSR has the SS20, the US had its equivalent in the GLCM.

          • Well, from the article later on a tweet from her says “I was not talking about preemptively striking Russia”.

            Seems a bit strange to me, the US and NATO already have the capbility, just not perhaps the deployment.

            Yeah, as Nigel says, we may well need the QE sooner.

            My daft notion though is that longer term, nukes are dead, and the likes of the QE and POW will be the real deterrents, and it might not be that longer-term either. And it will need both carriers.

        • Basically with regards to Russia, it’s going to be subs against carrier strike groups. I may be going a little far I guess.

        • The GLCM’s where the headline grabbing easy to see system.
          The Pershing 2 with its quick reaction , fast flight time and a CEP of less than 100ft was the system that concerned the USSR and was a direct counter to the SS20s.

          Life was so much easier during the Cold War when you knew red was the enemy!

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