Four F-35 Lightning jets have completed the first nighttime carrier landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters.
The Ministry of Defence say in a news release that ‘Exercise Lightning Fury’ over the North Sea was aimed at ensuring 207 Squadron achieves essential carrier flying and Landing Signals Officer (LSO) supervisory qualifications.
Of course, the first night landings on the vessel itself occurred during the WESTLANT18 deployment off the US coast, an image from that deployment is below.
HMS Queen Elizabeth recently sailed from her home port of Portsmouth to conduct training with UK F-35 Lightning jets in home waters. Specifically, the ship is sailing to conduct Carrier Qualifications as well as Landing Signal Officer qualifications with 207 Squadron, the UK’s F-35 Lightning training squadron.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“Few countries in the world have the capacity and technology to deploy fighter jets from an aircraft carrier in the North Sea. These trials put the UK at the helm of 5th generation warfighting and cement the UK as a Tier 1 military power.”
Commander UK Strike Force, Mike Utley said:
“Operating the UK’s Lightning Force from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters is a significant milestone, and one we are delighted to have shown the Secretary of State for Defence in person.
This training with 207 Squadron will set the conditions for valuable warfighting exercises later this year between the operational Squadron and the ship. The future utility of these tremendous UK Defence assets is gaining clarity each day as we push the envelope of their combined ability, leading to the first combined operational deployment of the carrier strike capability next year.”
824 Naval Air Squadron personnel have also been honing their night flying & submarine hunting skills on HMS Queen Elizabeth. 824 Naval Air Squadron is based at RNAS Culdrose and is equipped with eight Merlin helicopters.
The Ministry of Defence say that 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. The carrier will deploy with two frigates, two destroyers, a nuclear submarine and support vessels.