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.


  1. “Naval and Air Force Aviators”

    If that’s from the RN I’m surprised. Aviators? What about FAA and RAF Pilots.

    Surely an American behind those words.

    Not a moan either just surprised a Brit would use the word.

  2. Keep forgetting these pics are not CGI. Pics from fly-co look impressive. Those windows are humongous.

    I am still waiting for a mass CH-47 demonstration.

  3. Let’s hope the deck stood up to the temperatures from the jet exhausts? If there are some concerns that should be resolved before POW begins trials. From what I’ve seen in the media the ship, crew and planes performed very well, apart from a few ratings enjoying too much drink! Drink on shore leave is nothing new, and won’t stop, as long as penned up youth mans our ships.

    • Just the amount of time in the schedule I suspect. With so much to do probably simply a case of prioritising vertical for the number of slots they could fit in on this stage of the trials with more focus on rolling to come later. With wanting to check out all sorts of combinations of load, approach angles, wind conditions, and then repeating at least some of the same tests one or more times to check consistency and variances there must be one heck of a lot to get through. I’m actually quite glad to see that they got any rolling in at this stage. It’s all heading in the right direction (well, except for that last backwards landing 🙂 ).

  4. Saw someone mention the Flyco windows further up. Was involved in a discussion on another website where the safety of them was questioned with regards explosions when under attack. That’s a lot of flying glass if something were to happen/explode on the flight deck.
    The only information I’ve been able to find is that the windows will withstand the force of a Chinook’s rotor blade. The problem is, that is not a measure of force that I -as an engineer- am familiar with. Does anyone have any other data in a metric that is actually helpful?


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