F-35 Lightning jets have left HMS Queen Elizabeth after eight weeks flying, helping to write the ‘operator manual’, say the Royal Navy.
“The success of the Westlant 18 deployment – which has also included a very high-profile visit to New York – allows the Portsmouth-based ship to move on to operational trials next year with British-owned F-35s flown by Naval and Air Force aviators based at RAF Marham.
Two jets and four test pilots, based at the Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, joined the carrier in late September.”
The jets performed 200 short take-offs, 187 vertical landings, and 15 rolling landings and dropped 54 dummy bombs into the Atlantic.
“This has been one of the most comprehensive flight trials at sea ever conducted,” said RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, ITF chief test pilot in a news release.
“I am very proud to have professionally executed every aspect of this trial and deliver for the UK a capability that can be exploited for years to come.”
Naval aviator Nathan Gray – the first person to land a jet on HMS Queen Elizabeth – added:
“It has been phenomenal to get through a high profile with such success. This is due to the skills of the designers of both the F-35 and the ship herself.
It is beyond question that without the vision of the Royal Navy and the unfailing support of the ship’s company we would not have achieved what we have done today. I am proud to have delivered this future and enduring operational capability.”
The carrier is now spending time in Norfolk, Virginia, offloading the ITF team and their equipment before heading back to Portsmouth in time for Christmas.