Jet aircraft embarked on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth have been undergoing live weapons training in the North Sea.
The Royal Navy say that 617 Squadron, ‘The Dambusters’, and the US Marine Corps’ VMFA-211 jets, spent three days on exercise, dropping 500lb Paveway IV high explosive bombs onto a dedicated range off the coast of the UK in order to practice.
The range was Garvie Island, a barren and rocky outcrop the size of a ship. The island is used as a target for a range of training operations and is the only place in the Northern Hemisphere where NATO forces combine land, air and sea capabilities in deploying ordnance up to 1,000-pounds.
The Island is part of the Cape Wrath training area and is separated from the rest of the mainland by the Kyle of Durness stretch of water. It’s not used if sea birds are present at certain times of the year.
Just a reminder to anyone reading this that ‘The National’ reported this in a very odd way.
The training proved HMS Queen Elizabeth’s ability to deliver F-35 strike mission sets from weapon prep through to execution.
Captain James Blackmore, Commander Air Group, said:
“Working with British and American live weapons is a new experience for the Royal Navy, and the next step on the road toward full operational capability. Everyone needs to step up a gear to ensure we are ahead of the game as we move toward HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first operational deployment next year, as from that moment onwards we need to be ready to do this for real.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently leading a nine-ship Carrier Strike Group with 15 jets and 11 helicopters.
Commander Mark Sparrow Royal Navy, commanding officer of 617 Squadron, was quoted as saying:
“The first week of GroupEx set the baseline for higher tempo deck operations on the Squadron. That was a springboard for the next phase, which was to load live weapons on the aircraft, which we had not done from HMS Queen Elizabeth before. It was an opportunity to end-to-end test all the systems within the ship and the squadron, from building and loading the weapons all the way through to successfully releasing them on target.
It’s a fantastic achievement and hugely beneficial for junior pilots, both Royal Navy and RAF, to build the confidence that they can fly from the carrier, refuel, hit the target on a range and then return to slot back into a busy flying programme on-board.”