Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has arrived at Mayport, Florida for the first port call of the Westlant18 deployment in order to re-supply before beginning final preparations for F-35 trials.
The deployment, known as ‘WESTLANT 18’, is the first-time HMS Queen Elizabeth has sailed across the Atlantic.
As well as the vital deck trials, the Royal Navy say it will also involve exercises to prove the ability to operate with other nations’ maritime and aviation assets, as well as the landing of Royal Marines and their equipment ashore in the United States, to conduct training with their US counterparts.
Time to break out Tropical uniform; and the sunscreen☀️ pic.twitter.com/BtC9TLXVjH
— HMS Queen Elizabeth (@HMSQnlz) September 5, 2018
The carrier was joined by Type-23 Frigate HMS Monmouth, as well as Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, Mk 4 Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton and a contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Plymouth. RFA Tiderace is expected to join her soon.
It is understood that around 200 trials support staff will be joined by two ‘orange wired’ F-35 test aircraft, belonging to the Integrated Test Force (ITF), which are expected to conduct 500 take offs and landings during their 11-week period at sea.
The aim of these initial, or ‘developmental’ trials are to ascertain, through the specially equipped aircraft and sensors around the ship, the operating parameters of the aircraft and ship, in a range of conditions. Similar successful trials were conducted by HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea earlier this year for Rotary Wing aircraft.
HMS Queen Elizabeth Commanding Officer, Capt Jerry Kyd said:
“This deployment to the United States will be another first for my ship. Crossing a major ocean with 1500 sailors, aircrew and Marines embarked and the spectacle of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September is very exciting for us all.
It has been an incredible journey since we left Rosyth just over a year ago and we are all looking forward to this next, seminal chapter in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s life.”