HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s second Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier, has embarked her first F-35 jet.
For @HMSPWLS, the first jet landing is another step on the road to full operating capability.
For Britain, it’s one step closer to a continuous carrier strike capability.
— Commander UK Carrier Strike Group (@smrmoorhouse) June 9, 2021
The Royal Navy said in a statement:
“An F-35B Lightning aircraft has landed onboard the Royal Navy’s latest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, for the first time.
Taking place off the south coast of England, the milestone marks a significant step towards the 65,000-tonne vessel reaching full operational capability.
Operating together as part of Sea Acceptance Trials, it is the first time a fixed wing aircraft has landed onboard HMS Prince of Wales. The trials test the ship’s capability to receive and launch aircraft whilst maintaining continuous air operations.”
HMS Prince of Wales was due to conduct these trials off the US coast last year but issues (more about that below) meant she couldn’t.
656 Squadron and their Apache attack helicopters also recently joined HMS Prince of Wales for her sea trials. This was the first time the ship worked with Apache helicopters.
The carrier also recently tested her three Phalanx guns as part of efforts to make the vessel operational.
After the much-publicised first encounter at sea with her big sister HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Carrier Strike Group and a brief stopover in portsmouth, sea trials have now resumed.
The aircraft carrier was previously alongside in Portsmouth for just over one year. In May 2020, HMS Prince of Wales experienced flooding which the Royal Navy described (at the time) as minor but this was followed by more significant flooding in October 2020 which caused damage to her electrical cabling. The now repaired damage was so bad that the ship was unable to sail to America for fixed-wing aircraft trials.
The Royal Navy say that the carrier will shortly head to the south west coast for an intensive period of trials and training, establishing her lethality and ability to sustain operations.
207 Squadron F-35B pilot and the first to land onboard HMS Prince of Wales, Squadron Leader Will said:
“It was a real honour to be the first pilot to land the F-35B onboard HMS Prince of Wales.
With all the training that we have previously undertaken with HMS Queen Elizabeth, we are now looking forward to using that experience and knowledge working with HMS Prince of Wales as she moves towards her full operational capability.”