British F-35 Lightning jets are now on-board HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Flown by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots, the Lightning jets are embarking on the carrier to conduct operational trials off the East Coast of the USA, say the Royal Navy.

Image Crown Copyright 2019.

This follows successful developmental trials last year with US Lightning jets, where forces conducted 500 take offs and landings over their 11-week period at sea.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“This is another step towards the UK’s carrier strike capability becoming fully operational. The bringing together of the UK Lightnings on the first in class HMS Queen Elizabeth paves the way for the world’s most up to date, fully integrated carrier force.”

Image Crown Copyright 2019.

Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff for Aviation and Carrier Strike, Rear Admiral Martin Connell, Royal Navy, said:

“Embarking UK Lightning jets in HMS Queen Elizabeth for the very first time is a major milestone for Royal Navy and Royal Air Force aviation and for our development of the 5th generation Carrier Strike Group capability.

Once again, the support from our US Navy and US Marine Corps colleagues in the United States has been incredible and undoubtedly helped bring us to this moment: making maritime aviation history.”

Air Officer Commanding Number 1 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, Royal Air Force, said:

“WESTLANT19 marks an extremely significant milestone on our 10-year journey to establishing our renewed Carrier Strike capability.

Bringing our own Lightnings onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time gives us the opportunity to conduct critical operational testing. With the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force operating so closely together, these are incredibly exciting times for embarked Combat Air.”

The MoD say that these trials are aimed at ‘end-to-end’ testing of the aircraft and personnel to ensure the aircraft are compatible with the carrier. The tests involve mission planning, arming the aircraft using the ship’s Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, flying missions and debriefing on completion.

Image Crown Copyright 2019.

“The landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth are part of the ‘WESTLANT 19’ Carrier Strike Group deployment. Once fully operational, UK Carrier Strike Group will be a formidable force around the world, using a number of platforms to work alongside our allies.”

Image Crown Copyright 2019.

During this time, the aircraft carrier will be escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlins from 814, 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons, Wildcats from 815 squadron and Royal Marines from Lima Company, 42 Commando.

Commander of the Strike Group, Commodore Mike Utley, Royal Navy said:

“Getting to this point of embarking UK Lightning jets into our British-built carrier has been a significant joint undertaking by industry and military – both ours, and those from the United States.

We will take the jets from the successful developmental phase we achieved last year through to a more operational footing, so we are confident that the jets, the carrier and our destroyers and frigates will function seamlessly together.”

The UK will declare Initial Operating Capability for Carrier Strike by the end of 2020. The first operational deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth 617 Squadron and a squadron of US Marine Corps Lightning jets is due to take place in 2021.

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Simon m
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Simon m

Exciting times Indeed ☺️

BIG D
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BIG D

Here we go but is this all the f35b that are being sent?

Peter Crisp
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Peter Crisp

I wonder how much video footage will ever be released from this?
I’m pretty sure they could make a decent video of the tests without showing any secret stuff.

Julian
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Julian

The BBC did a 3 part documentary on the sea trials. Someone here said a while back that the documentary team was still aboard for the very first F-35 tests. Hopefully they are still aboard now and will release a follow-on episode or set of episodes once they feel that they have enough footage. My guess is that we might have to wait a bit, maybe another 3-parter perhaps ending at the point when she is first declared operational. I think she’s initially going to be declared operational for rotary only isn’t she but if that was the milestone for… Read more »

Gavin Gordon
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Gavin Gordon

Chris Terrill is the embedded broadcaster covering the QE trials, Julian.

Julian
Guest
Julian

Thanks Gavin. And in there for the long haul so probably still on board as we speak? I just looked at his Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Terrill) and listed in the big “Filmography” table is the three-parter already aired that I mentioned, “2016 – 2018 Britain’s Biggest Warship (series)”, but I also see “2018-2019 “Britain’s Biggest Warship At Sea (series 2) – The ongoing story of HMS Queen Elizabeth (in production)” so that basically confirms my last post and also says it will be a series, presumably another three-parter, as opposed to a single episode update. Do you have any thoughts about… Read more »

Gavin Gordon
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Gavin Gordon

No, just looking forward to the series. Met Chris once in another capacity and he’s very genuine with no angle other than the day to day life of the ship.
Regards

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

No. Both of these are from 17 squadron. 3 aircraft from 617 squadron look set to embark soon, having left RAF Marham earlier this week – and it looks like 207 will be involved too. They’ll also be joined by USMC aircraft at some point.

There’s some debate over the amount of F35 which will embark, with 6, 7 and 9 UK airframes all being claimed by various publications.

Lusty
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Lusty

As an amendment to myself, it looks like the other aircraft from 17 squadron will also embark. Four aircraft embarked today, not sure what squadrons the other two are from though from specifically though.

James Fennell
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James Fennell

These two are from 17 squadron, the test unit based in the US – five more are on the way from 617 at Marham, and 4 USMC aircraft will also participate in this exercise.

BB85
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BB85

I wonder if they plan to test how the crew operate with a full complement of 36-48 F35 (with assistance from the US of course) before she completes her first operational deployment in 2021.

Aethelstan the curious
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Aethelstan the curious

Perhaps the ship with a full, parked, complement of planes will be an episode milestone.

maurice10
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maurice10

It’s been a long time coming! I still can’t be reconciled by the Cameron Government’s decision to scrap the Harrier carriers when they did, and in the process expose the RN in such a way? All I can say, it was more in luck than judgment.

John Clark
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John Clark

Indeed Maurice, quite the gamble, luckily for us, it worked out better than his personal gamble on the BREXIT referendum!

The cuts over the last 30 years are absolutely criminal and reckless with our national security.

At least the new Carrier capability, is far more than replacing the small invincible class ships, we are embarking on a true next generation carrier capability.

maurice10
Guest
maurice10

We do not know what the political complexion of Westminster will be, once the Brexit question is answered one way or another? Until there is clarity, I just hope above hope, that the Royal Navy does not become a political football once again?

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

He always was a chancer and one greatly financed by his wife’s father to boot.

Czartank
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Czartank

I believe that this is the first time any of these pilots have actually landed a F35 on an aircraft carrier.

Jas
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Jas

Why isn’t this taking part over the Clyde?

I will get my coat…

Cam
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Cam

36 F35 jets aboard would look amazing all lined up and taking off, will it ever happen though.

Lusty
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Lusty

Henry Jones has shared some more photos of this on his Twitter feed. Of the four embarked F35 so far, 3 were lined up on the port side. They look lost on the flight deck and I mean that in a good way. It really shows how truly massive these ships are – they’re even bigger in person! I don’t think we can stipulate what can or might happen, as operational deployments will always change, as will aircraft availability. It’s likely we’ll see the ships deploy with ~24 F35 and additional helicopters operationally. I’d wager we’d only really see larger… Read more »

Ron
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Ron

Out if interest can anyone explain to me why it is that the QE went over to the US and then aircraft from 617 sqn flew over. The flight would have needed a few air to air refueling points meaning tankers would have been needed and it would add a few thousand miles to the airframe. Why did 617 not join the QE in the English Chanel and sail over.

Fedaykin
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Fedaykin

HMS QE had other things to do prior to the F-35B deploying on her, it made no sense having Lightning sitting on deck doing nothing.

As for airframe life, the flight profile deploying would have been fairly benign so hardly a big stress. It has the benefit of showing how the makeup of the QE class airgroup can be rapidly changed globally through the use of the Voyager tanker.

Lusty
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Lusty

The RN is still working up the capabilities. For the first few weeks of Westlant 19 which were still heavily based around operating rotary-wing platforms and operating with other ships, the F35 would mealy have been a deck ornament. Similarly, the F35 pilots, ground crew and support network is also still building up and can itself not afford to be sat idle for too long. If they had departed on the carrier, their work up and training would have impacted the RNs work up and training. It’s best to keep it separate and integrate it when necessary. QE and POW… Read more »

geoff
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geoff

Morning Lusty. Why is it taking so long to reach Full Operational Capability? Is this a budgetary issue combined with the fact that there appears to be no immediate crisis on the horizon or does it really need to take this long? One suspects(hopes) that if a sudden situation arose she could be worked up to FOC pretty quickly!?

James M
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James M

It’s a brand new class of ship, a brand new aircraft, and a capability that the RN hasn’t had for several years, so it’s going to take a while to get into the swing of things. No doubt PoW will get there much faster than QNLZ, purely because we’ll know what we’re doing at that point. If there was a crisis, they could probably accelerate the schedule, though I’ve no idea by how much.

Ron
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Ron

geoff, No it would take several years to work up to full operational capability. First its a new carrier and a compltly new design concept so everything will need to be worked out there sailing characteristics, handling charateristics etc. Then the battlegroup concept needs to be ironed out, what is the best method of sailing in company, how many ships, what type of ships, how close can they sail in company etc. Then there is a new aircraft that needs to be evaluated, what type of sea conditions, atmospheric conditions, wind conditions can this aircraft operate in, what is the… Read more »

geoff
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geoff

Thanks Ron-all makes sense

Lusty
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Lusty

It’s the perfect storm of a brand new ship, aircraft and ability. The RN hasn’t operated fixed wing aircraft at sea since 2010. The loss of the harriers and Ark Royal/Lusty left us open in terms of defence and power projection, but also removed a vital training and experience aid. Thankfully, RNAS Culdrose has a mock flight deck complete with 14 Sea Harriers, 4 model F35 airframes, some old Sea Kings and a few Merlin prototypes, which does provide some training but not ‘at sea’ experience. Fixed wing operations has been a capability gap for 9 years, so we need… Read more »

geoff
Guest
geoff

Wow-thanks for comprehensive reply Lusty. I seem to remember also at the time of the Falklands War it was mooted that the old Ark Royal might be still in a state to be re-activated but she was too far gone to be of any value in the conflict.

Lusty
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Lusty

Hi Geoff – you’re welcome. Not sure about the old Ark Royal, but HMS Bulwark was certainly looked at for reactivation.

stephen hoyle
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stephen hoyle

The old ark was decommissioned feb 1979 and sent for scrap
at cairnryan in scotland in 1980 and was just razor blades by 1982, despite calls to preserve her.

Paul42
Guest
Paul42

Ark Royal IV was towed out of Devonport to the breakers at Cairnryan on 22nd of September 1980, there wasn’t much left in 1982. The RN did look at Bulwark but her communications systems were so far out of date it was decided not to go there. We also looked at HMS Tiger for heavier gun fire support until it became apparent that we had disposed of all the ammunition for her guns!

geoff
Guest
geoff

Thanks Paul. It’s amazing how inventive and productive we can be in an emergency-notwithstanding the above we managed to get sidewinders on Harriers in a few weeks and a Task force at sea in a few days! Also, although Illustrious did not see action in the Falklands it arrived in the South Atlantic right at the end of the conflict and would have been available if the war had been prolonged

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

I went to visit a friend in Glasgow, who lived near the docks. There was a a huge hull that overshadowed the houses. He said it was the remains of a carrier, but didn’t know which one, this was in 1991.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Thank you Lusty, as always.

Paul42
Guest
Paul42

At the moment the UK has at least 7 new F35Bs awaiting delivery to the UK. Why fly 3 aircraft across the Atlantic when you already have 7 in the US?

Patricia Spafford Desmier
Guest

Would have loved to see them landing,was that available to watch.

Rokuth
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Rokuth

“Save the Royal Navy” had footage of the F-35B landings on YouTube.

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

Youtube has now a number of videos of Westlant19. One video in particular shows four F35Bs lined up on the deck, being taxied about and then taking off. Good times ahead, well done to all involved.

Andy P
Guest
Andy P

Still a submarine short in that ‘Task Group’, I just hope we get the A boats sorted to ride shotgun. Apart the the ‘submariney’ stuff, they’re still our only TLAM shooters.

Chaswarnertoo
Guest
Chaswarnertoo

Suspect an Astute will be shadowing. Just not mentioned.

Ron
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Ron

Andy P, not sure on that one, I did read somewhere that a SSN was to deploy with the QE but the RN will never say where those pesky subs are.

Andy P
Guest
Andy P

If you really want to know where our boats are, ask a Helensburgh taxi driver, they know the score.

My spider senses say that we don’t have enough running boats at the moment unfortunately and that will be why there isn’t one there.

Ron
Guest
Ron

Yeep taxi drivers and pub landlords probably know as much if not more that the Admirals.

BB85
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BB85

I know the Artisan radar is not the primary radar on the QE but does the huge mast right beside it not block a lot of its field of view?

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

No not really. If the ship was standing still and a threat approached constantly from the direction that the mast blocks the radar, it could be a problem. However, the ship is normally constantly moving and Artisan is paired with the S1850 radar, so this blocked forward viewed is open to the S1850. Also, both the Artisan and S1850 operate on different frequencies, this minimises interference, but also means that the incoming threat, has to battle against two different types of frequency and transmitted waveform techniques, so in the grands scheme of things its not really a concern.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Many naysayers said this would never happen. Brilliant to see well done to all concerned. Superb.

andy reeves
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andy reeves

g

andy reeves
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andy reeves

lets have a picture asap of big lizzie with a full deck

Helions
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Helions

Far from trying to be a killjoy on such an important milestone event – but IMHO something has finally changed at the highest levels of the U.S. DOD and there is a real debate about the future of the USN carrier force. Especially interesting since so many countries are rushing to establish their own CSGs… https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2019/10/14/will-ground-based-hypersonic-missiles-replace-aircraft-carriers-in-the-defense-budget When this type of discussion over the sacred calves of the U.S. fleet has spilled over into a very visible debate between factions it really makes you wonder: just HOW survivable are the flattops in this “Brave New World” of weapons development? Sorry for… Read more »

geoff
Guest
geoff

Hi Helions-you’re not being a spoiler or killjoy at all. The threat to big surface targets is very real and needs to be discussed. What are the solutions? Huge submarines that can perform the roles of some of todays Surface Fleet? Task Groups that stay further from harms way with aircraft that have far better range aboard? Improved defences against smart and hypersonic missiles? we really are moving into the world of computer games on a maxi scale!

Helions
Guest
Helions

Actually geoff since you mentioned it, the USN is planning to build a “large volume” non- SSBN variant of the Columbia class. Since the Block V Virginias have the VPM and extended vertical launchers to help replace those lost when the Ohio class SSGNs retire, makes you wonder what’s in the works there…

Cheer!

geoff
Guest
geoff

Thanks Helions. Fascinating stuff-will discuss with a friend who is a retired First Engineer from two Los Angeles Class subs. His take will be interesting!

Helions
Guest
Helions
BB85
Guest
BB85

I know the UK shadows vessels through the English Channel which is straight forward but I’d be interested to know if the Chinese have the resources to shadow every US vessel through the south China Sea which is huge. I don’t think China has the resources to track carrier groups across the Pacific so unless they can shadow them from the point they leave Port I think the carriers will be safe.

Helions
Guest
Helions

Lot’s of ways to track a CSG though – RORSATS, SigInt, SOSUS arrays, LRMP assets, etc. Especially nowadays with the pace of technology you can’t count anything out and it would be a serious mistake to do so IMHO…

Cheers!

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

If a carrier strike group (CSG) had no aircraft, I’d say it would have a fair to middling chance defending itself against threats, be that subsonic/supersonic/hypersonic anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and of course anti-ship ballistic missiles. But the main weapon of the strike group is the aircraft it takes along with it. These along with the weapons they carry will always be upgraded and improved. With either the F35 acting as a scout or the improved Hawkeye watching the surface and the skies. These aircraft should provide plenty of warning of approaching threats. The USN will operate in the same method… Read more »

Helions
Guest
Helions

I think the PLAN strategy Area Denial strategy is to stage massive, multidomain attacks by land, air, and sea based long range systems to saturate and overwhelm fleet defenses through sheer numbers. Thee’s currently no way to stop a 2000 hypersonic Vampires inbound with anything we have. Which might explain why the USN is trying so hard to develop unlimited shot energy based weapons to compensate for limited (and unreloadable at sea) missiles.

Helions
Guest
Helions

What happened to the edit function?

Mike
Guest
Mike

Interesting to see that the once great Royal Navy, the sea going arm of the UK, has to rely not only on the US for its nuclear deterrent but also on the US for aircraft to man its aircraft carrier. What if the US and UK have a difference of opinion on some form of action? The RAF/RN planes go but the USMC ones sit on the deck?

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Morning Mike To try to answer your questions. “Interesting to see that the once great Royal Navy,” Depends how you define “great” Nobody on earth can compare to the US for its military, so what are you comparing the RN to? France, Germany? Italy? Other medium ranked powers? The Roman Empire was once seen as the greatest Empire the world ever knew, but no one is now comparing the Marina Militare, and I’m sure Italy too, as part of NATO, has all sorts of help from the US. ” has to rely not only on the US for its nuclear… Read more »

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

Thing is, if they’re operating out at sea with us and out of range of land they’re pretty much stuck with us. So if for example, we got ourselves in a conflict and the US opted out. I don’t see the USMC sitting in the mess because they’re not invited to the party, especially if there’s a number of inbound threats. If anything they would be doing the fleet combat air patrols, as its in their interest to protect the ship. The offensive side would be left to us. Though I can’t see how or where we would be doing… Read more »

andy reeves
Guest
andy reeves

difference of opinion? we, the 51st state will do whatever america wants us to do our forces should be bi enough, strong enough, to look after and oper ,and only what we want to do, at the end of the day we’ve the u.s over the barrel with the f 35 order size, the u.s is very much banking on serious money coming in for 35 which is just one of the reasons the u.s defence budget is being reigned in.

andy reeves
Guest
andy reeves

Apart from having f 35’s on CAP, will they finally get some shipbourne ‘teeth on Q.E and POW? or will it be a fingers crossed, that nothing bad happens job?