HMS Queen Elizabeth welcomed back her F-35 Lightning jets for part two of flying trials.

The goal is to test the aircraft in more challenging wind conditions and to practice the ship in handling and loading of the aircraft with weapons.

The first of three such phases to be held on the ship completed earlier in the year, the developmental testing (DT-1) aimed to generate enough flight test data to certify the F-35B Lightning as ready for future operational testing aboard the ship say Naval Air Systems Command.

The two F-35Bs involved were vertically landed aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time September the 25th, piloted by Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, both test pilots with the Pax River ITF.

By October the 8th, the Integrated Test Force (ITF) had collected enough data to support operational test.

“It has been a superb effort by everyone across the ITF and HMS Queen Elizabeth so far in the UK’s F-35B sea trials,” said Royal Navy Capt. Jerry Kyd, the ship’s Commanding Officer at the time.

“I could not be more pleased with the team spirit and dynamism from all that has delivered a volume of quality data which has put us well ahead of where we expected to be at this stage. I am very grateful to all the ITF folk who have been focused, professional and willing to go the extra mile—more to come!”

The test team—comprising nearly 175 ITF members aboard the ship—completed several needed parameters during DT-1, including day and night short-takeoffs and vertical landings with minimal deck motion, in varying wind conditions and with and without internal stores.

“I’m very proud of the test accomplishments by the combined team of the 1,500 personnel comprised of the ITF, the carrier strike group and the crew of HMS Queen Elizabeth with her embarked 820 and 845 squadrons,” said Andrew Maack, the F-35 Pax River ITF’s chief test engineer.

“It was impressive to see the excellent teamwork at all levels of the organizations.”

Beyond the completed DT-1 test requirements—which were performed within the same flight envelope as will be used in the first operational test phase—the ITF also conducted about half of the testing that falls under the DT-2 threshold, or the flight envelope needed to reach initial operational capability (maritime).

The ITF returned to the ship in late October for DT-2, which will concentrate on external stores testing, minimum performance short-takeoffs and SRVLs, and night operations.

A third developmental test for FOCFT(FW), followed by operational testing, is scheduled for 2019. Together, the tests will help the Ministry of Defence reach F-35B IOC(M) in 2020.


  1. Its not really on topic but was thinking about this last week. Could trailer equipped with land ceptor be parked on the deck of QE and plugged into the combat management system to give it additional missile cover in the event it went into a hostile situation. Or should it always rely on its escorts for air defense cover?

    • No. Could they plumb SeaCeptor onto them? Yes. Any thing can be made to work. But I don’t think they will be getting it. The Italians and French have missiles on their aviation ships, but I think the feeling is that it more trouble than its worth seeing as you say there will always be escorts. Guns or trainable missile launchers below the flight deck or to the starboard side of the island a different matter. But no.

      The reason why Invincibles received SeaDart are a bit tortuous, all that through deck cruiser rhubarb. Remember the French and Italian helicopter ships of the era were proper cruisers. Invincible was step up. And then Sea Harrier. etc. etc.

      CVA-01 should have received a SeaDart system but it is questionable whether it would have actually been fitted with such.

      • The trouble with the “more than trouble than its worth” attitude is all fine and dandy in a benign environment. When the shit hits the fan, and the T45/26 are facing a swarm of missiles it will be everyman for himself, in which case they may seriously regret not fitting Seaceptor to the QE class.
        The Landceptor packs could be fitted, but they’re probably not marinized, so a “fitted with” Seaceptor would be the best option.

        • You can’t just go firing off missiles left, right, and centre. It is a bit more complex than that. I would have SeaCeptor on big RFA’s. I would have big modern CIWS everywhere. I would even add extra mounts to the Daring even thought it would mean sacrificing the hangar. But missiles off a large carrier, no. Flight deck is hazardous enough without missiles whizzing off.

          • The issue for me is what do the American carriers have? RAAM launchers and CIWS. The RAAM launchers are below flight deck but offer a useful last ditch SAM system in the carriers defence. Surely something similar could be fitted to QE class
            When is QE getting its miserly 3 CIWS?
            Agree about the RFAs being armed they should all have the teeth needed to support a surface groups defence. Especially when we have utterly inadequate numbers of surface warships and subs now.

          • I disagree with the RN FFBNW policy. This didnt work then and it wont work now. The USN is even now fitting ATT systems. We will rue the day if things hot up. 3 CWS on QNLZ; not even trying are they? Who makes up this stuff about debris from launches- excuse?

      • The main problem is that it just takes up space for something that will more effectively carried by dedicated warships and also increases the risk of Foreign Object Damage to planes and the flight deck every time a launch is made.

        • Carriers have been caught out before with insufficient escorts & will again. We should fit the QEs with a SAM. Phalanx CIWS are very much last-ditch & can’t guarentee some bombs/missiles getting through. SAMs usually have a little time to get flightdeck crew clear before launching. If it was a launch to save the ship decision, then unfortunately flight deck crew or even an aircraft or two would be the lesser sacrifice.
          If SAMs were a no-no on carriers, why does the USN equip their carriers with ESSM & RAM SAMs when they’ve the best escort fleet on the planet?

          • The discussion is whether VLS system works with carriers not trainable launchers below the flight deck level or in blind spots such as on the starboard side.

          • yes, but there would be software issues in getting it integrated with the ships fire control system, as a concept, it is more than just possible.

          • the rim 116 system is being fitted to the ford class carriers and several other warship types. it is already in use all over the world as a combined anti air and close in weapon system, its compact size(the base of the launcher is comparable to a phalanx unit. its best point is, price, at just£800,000 per unit it is surely cheaper than a captor fit.

          • You are spot on. Look at the desperation of RN Carriers in Pacific and you get an idea how hot things can get against a motivated enemy. Remember the Falklands anyone?

        • For the sea ceptor close/ next to the phalanx. You already have to worry about firing arcs etc there so this is the best place to mount them. Several options exist, but easiest is to bolt them on the the side of the hill. Reinforce so if hit any blast is directed outwards. The weapon goes up 30 meters before main engine is started and if you have the retractable covers then no or little FOD. 12 missles on each side as a minimum which will not take up much space and 36 overall giving you a better last defence option. Their range is out to 25 km so better defence versus hypersonic weapons.

      • There was a plan to fit a lightweight Seawolf system to the Invincible class during their mid life update but it was omitted because of cost. The simple answer is we are now living in a period where this doesn’t matter just like pre 1982 but the QE class are under armed and do require a short range SAM. They will only get some after another war and the 200 page lessons learnt report is published. Hopefully, QE will be undamaged and more importantly no crew lost before they are installed.

    • I think anything is possible if hostilities broke out, look and what the UK cobbled together in a very short space of time to send to the South Atlantic. I personally this containerised weapons are great concept. You can defend your assets at sea until you establish a shore base then move the containerise system to shore to protect the beachhead.

  2. Thanks god SDR 98 had the foresight to order these ships and the RN had the fortitude get them through round after round of Budget cuts. They are about the only point of pride for the entire country at the moment and thank god that a chancellor of the exchequer was elected that had the only dry dock in the country that could build them in his constituency.

    Thank god some genius in procurement also wrote the contract price for cancelation above the price to build or those little weasels Cameron and Osborne would have had them scrapped in a heart beat and lastly thank god for the F35B which not only looks awesome but is emensley effective and opens up an entire new era of carrier warfare. The Gerald Ford is starting to look like a total waste of time and money now.

    • You can’t compare the Ford’s to CVF / QEC / whatever a completely different class of vessel. A comparison to the first America class is probably more realistic. Yes the FAA will be able to launch ‘me too’ strike missions but the QEC’s portfolio is a lot wider. QEC has to be our fleet carrier, our LHA, our escort carrier, our base for disaster relief, and so on. The USN have the luxury of having ‘two ‘aviation ship’ communities, but we are more on a par with their Gators than the CBG’s.

      • I don’t think so in that we will operate a fleet of aircraft entirely composed of F35, while the USN will operate a fleet of mostly F18,

        The F18 is a Low performance aircraft compared to most 4th gen platforms, compared to a 5th generation F35B especially one armed with weapons like SPEAR 3 and Meteor the F18 is a turkey.

        Sure us carriers have advanced Hawkeye which is an awesome capability beyond what we have in crowsnest but 9 time’s out of ten tha QEC May be operating with an E7 overhead which is a significant improvement over E2D, F35 itself may also be able to provide a significant AEW capability.

        A carrier is only as good as the aircraft it carry’s, we proved that in WW2, the USN is increasingly backing the wrong horse with multi billion dollar CVN’s operating an aircraft that will look increasingly like the swordfish of the 21st Centaury with plans to purchase a minimal number of F35C which may still be canceled in the next round of Budget cuts.

    • Blimey Martin. When you say it like that it really is a miracle the QE class ever came into service really. The whole programme was on a knife edge for years.
      Now we need to rebuild our navy around them and make sure we can protect these magnificent ships and all there huge combat potential.

  3. I really don’t understand why we don’t fit the two carriers with the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) – , they have the same mounts as the phalanx system that Hms QE and PW are already fitted for so would be the easiest option known to man!, even adding a couple more mounts wouldn’t be to hard!. The Americans have them on their carriers and we should have these at the minimum on our two new carriers. Terrorists are getting more high tech weapons systems and it’s only a matter of time before they steal or capture the hardware to threaten our carriers at port or at sea be it jets, drones or missiles and we might not have a frigate or destroyer protecting the ship at that time. Granted we have phalanx guns but we shouldn’t just rely on that and guns alone. It’s bonkers to think the carriers will always have a frigate or destroyer by her side when when clearly they won’t and terrorists do know how to atack a target when it’s most vulnerable….

  4. its interesting to see that the ford class carriers and up to 15 other nations are/have fitted the Pantheon 116 system these don’t take up much more deck space than a phalanx and are considered a close in weapon system and also give further anti air capability. the main goodies,are , that each unit costs just£800,000! how much would a ceptor unit cost? if the u.s deems the system good enough for their new carriers, surely, given cost, size, flexibility it would be a good addition for queen Elizabeth an d prince of wales.

    • Interesting, I was wondering what the cost of SeaRam was relative to Phalanx. It’s seams to be the same (unless that doesn’t include missiles).
      I think the RN preference is to use Phalanx because they have extra in storage, I think they are currently being upgraded to the latest spec, however if SeaRam could was available for the same price it’s bound to be the better option.

      • Can we not swap out the sea ram missile and put in ceptor misslies in the same package? The missiles could take cues from both main radar and phalanx one for close up. You go from 10 km to 25km range straight away.

        If that is too difficult then how about mount in the side of the phalanx vertically a few ceptor missiles and then have both a gun and missile platform. Not how much extra weight that would add but you get one mount point giving you both capabilities.

        If not this then option 3 is just find space near the phalanx mount externally and put in 12pack of missles externally mounted at each point giving you 36 in total. When vertically launched ceptor will go up 30 m above the deck and if they have a hard top that open up for launch no debris.

        We definitely need some extra last defences and sea ceptor is a cheap and very good way of adding this in.

    • We need a sea ceptor. Smaller cheaper bigger range. We need a couple of last options and these can engage to 25 km which is about 5 times further than phalanx meaning less likely to have debris hit the ships and better response to swarm attacks. For a cost of 25 million we are risking a 3bn plus asset.

  5. However wonderful it might seem to put CAMM on QE the simple truth is that using it will compromise the carrier’s main function.

    So, it’s floating along devoid of escort and sees a pop-up missile. It shoots off a couple of CAMM and downs the missile. It cannot however launch the required jets to intercept and destroy the launch platform because the deck is full of smoke and debris. It also meant that there was probably nobody on deck and no aircraft or weapons either – because of the 2500 degrees C missile exhaust.

    The notion of “just in case SAMs” simply doesn’t work because you shoot yourself in the foot as soon as you start air ops… you can’t launch the missiles, which means you needed to have brought along an escort anyway.

    Better to have a couple of jets on “Ready 5” and a T45 providing mid-layer air defence. Better still a CAP up threat and cyclic ops on deck.

    Having said this something like Sea RAM below the deck line makes more sense. We would however require a minimum of three sets, which means you’re at the $100m mark and people asking why the money wasn’t spent on the T31e project 🙂

    • Sea ceptor is cold launched. The rocket motor kicks in at circa 15-20 feet altitude as far as I can tell. Therefore no risk of damage to flight deck or crew. Also like US carriers the launchers could be fitted on pontoons sticking out of the hull below flight deck level. Therefore no risk to flight deck operations. QE has plenty of options for fitting these weapons she does weigh in at +65000 tons. Plenty of hull space and top weight margin for vital defensive weapons to be fitted.

    • the rim 116 is used by many navy’s around the world, compact, mor phalanx sized than most anti air silo systems, used as a very effective ciws, plus as far as the treasury is concerned, a snip at £800,000per unit.

  6. The question is does SeaCeptor require VLS tubes or can the launch tubes be angled? If they can be angled then there is lots of room down the sides of the carrier well below the flight deck to mount them. Even if they were mounted down the sides firing them could interfere with air ops.

    • We can add them to the side of the phalanxes at a 45 deg angle. However these go up 30 meter before main engine firing and if you have hard covers that open prior to firing no other debris or minimal. I don’t think you will have much fod to deal with with he sea ceptor has been designed with this in mind.

  7. Leaving the Sea Ceptor debate for a moment, now we have the ship, and POW due to start trials next year, when is someone in Government going to get on and firm order the next batch of F35’s? Currently 617 should be operational next year, but the next squadron does not stand up until 2023, and there don’t seem to be any firm plans after that. So unless the USMC come on board it is highly likely that either ship will only deploy with a maximum of 12 fixed wing airframes. Bearing in mind that 820 squadron can probably only put a dozen or so Merlins to Sea at any one time and we have got a heck of a big ship with a lot of empty space. The people on the deck look small for a reason, it’s a mighty big deck, and it would be very good to see it with the number of aircraft that always appear in the CGI pictures.

    • We are relying heavily on the US to pave over the cracks and avoid the constant questions of why two carrier’s when not enough jets for one and the push to sell one of them.

      Failing that, there is always cardboard cut outs and inflatable planes, a tactic that was used well in WW2.

      The issue is brexit is holding up the mini defence review, because of lack of time available for it and no one knowing if there will still be money available or not. The hold up means that decisions can’t be made nor firm orders placed.

      Finally there is the main reason, which was reported today in the news but hardly new, that the MOD /govenremnt prefer to delay decisions and pay more over the course, but in turn kick the problem down the path than to save money by actually spending the money they have talked about.

    • its not easily finding out exactly how many f 35’s we actually have i’d say 15 plus the 3 at pax river in the u.s providing training and testing. i’ll be happier when q.e actually sails at all timeswith a 24 load and a t45 and 23 in cohorts with her.

  8. All these fantasy war scenarios are a bit of a joke, who exactly has the political will to attack a UK carrier with all these appear from nowhere anti ship missiles! It just doesn’t work like that. This isn’t a tom Clancy novel.

    • Who knows? That’s the point of being prepared……….. 🙂

      The armed forces of the developed world today parallel those of the Early Modern pre-industrial era. Very expensive, so small, and difficult to replace quickly.

      I think conflicts in the immediate future will see such forces from opposing sides arrive at point of crisis where there will be lots of manoeuvring and shows of forces while the politicians and diplomats talk. Somebody will sneeze, there will be a brief exchange, and the politicians and diplomats will try to rapidly de-escalate and bring about a ceasefire. It is surviving these brief exchanges of fire that the armed forces plan for. So PDMS, CIWS, EW, and AEW/ISR/ASaC are very important, probably more so than offensive systems in a way.

      Things occasionally got bumpy when we lived in a bi-polar world. Now we live in a multi-polar things are no safer.

    • I can imagine China attacking one in a serious crisis. Depends where it is of course. That big navy of theirs id not for show.

    • Gods alive Robert Bray. If everyone thought like that then why have an armed forces at all? Sheez…facts are if you want to win a war you have to be prepared for war.
      You fight a war with the weapons and personnel you have in service, not what you can rush into service in a mad crises because you have not prepared.
      Failure to prepare is preparing to fail or more accurately lose
      These are not ideologies these are basic facts. Read “the art of war” written over 2000 years ago and having been continuously translated into virtually every known language. It is the world’s 5th most read text.

      • The point is Mr Bell, nations don’t just start shooting at our warships at of the blue, as some of the comments above have made out, we all want more warships, all fitted with the very best equipment, but we don’t have an unlimited budget, in times of war, many items of equipment appear out of storage that are not fitted for day to day operations. We are also highly unlikely to enter a conflict on our own, we would be part of a international task group, with probably a UN Resolution in our back pocket, the Russians and the Chinese have little interest in engaging the west in open conventional conflict, despite the noise from President Putin, it’s not good for the world economy. I served in the Navy for 14 years, we have mulity layered defences when we need them to protect our vessels, the Navy knows what it is doing, as for the Falklands, 2 x Astute class Submarines with TLAM could do more damage then any number of escorts. There is to much fantasy fleets in these comments, and little faith in what our Navy is capable of today.

    • I know who would have imagined the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbour, Argentina invade the Falklands, Germany invade Russia? It just takes one ego/misunderstanding/miscalculation/assassination and the shit can truly hit the fan.
      Do you think nuclear powers would never go to war on a limited scale believing the other one would not dare use nuclear weapons? You cannot make that assumption and take it for granted.

    • gives the doom mongers and knockers something to whinge about too many on here are angry for what we don’t have, rather than being proud of what we do have.

  9. On a slightly different topic I suggested a way for the Royal Navy and other branches of her majesty’s armed forces to resolve some of their manning problems by recruiting graduates from the British Commonwealth. Well it looks like someone in the MOD was already thinking of that 1,000-1,500 choice recruits from a 2 billion population of Commonwealth citizens. What not to like. Highly educated and technically trained, speak English and available for lower pay scales and benefits than that UK born recruits.

    • I was just going to add that.

      No article on this today, UKDJ? This is pretty big news in terms of recruitment, and something that I completely support.

    • The left would never go for lower pay& benefits for non-UK personnel. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have their own manning problems, so they would not help much.

      • Stinks of PR spin to me. Why would people not born here want to risk their lives for a country they have never lived? Yes it happens with the ghekkas but they are from a under developed country and there are many positives of the UK plus the history of joining is there. More advanced common wealth countries dont have either. Plus the history of being part of the UK has gone, they have grown up with their parents being grown up under independence from the UK. Maybe a handful will join but not enough to fix the problem or make a major dent in it.

        • There are thousands of young people from the Caribbean and former African colonies who would happily sign up to the Army/Navy as it provides far more opportunities compared to what is available locally.

  10. she’s starting to look like a proper warship in the title photo. All that turquoise water, sunshine and smiling was becoming annoying.

  11. Ok , I need to chime in here

    Sea ceptor is cold launched , so there will be no smoke or debris on the flight deck . Next , it’s compatible with the 997 radar and a cell of 16 would be sufficient for last ditch defence ( type 23 has 32)

    It will be fitted eventually, just need a financial climate which allows for it

    He Endeth the dit

  12. The Commonwealth is more than Just Australia, Canada and New Zealand. There are a further 51 countries besides these three and the UK. As I write Prince Charles is busy touring the African Commonwealth drumming up trade and cultural ties in an effort to shore up post-EU UK business ties while Prince Harry has been out in the South Pacific doing same.

    • You’re right and wrong, there are two commonwealths.

      The commonwealth of realms; 16 nations run in a similar fashion to dominions with their head of state being Queen Elizabeth II. These include Canada, Australia and New Zealand

      The commonwealth of nations; 51 nations loosely unified by a diplomatic group called the commonwealth with not much more power than having showy meetings once per year

  13. Back to the Sea Ceptor question, if I remember correctly she is equipped for but not with Sea Ceptor.
    Sea Ceptor has a massive advantage over the American and French surface to air missiles in that they are cold launched rather than the American/French hot launch. Hot launching leaves smoke and debris over the flight deck cold launching does not. Sea Ceptor also does not need any fire control it takes the information from the Artisan radar and then its a fire and forget on to the next. The US and French use the radar either from Phalanx mounts/SPQ-9B or the Arabel target acquisition radar.
    So should it be installed, in my opinion yes.

        • I think the original design included sea ceptor, but it was cut with a number of other capabilities, along with the overall size, due to affordability. Pretty sure i read this on savetheroyalnavy.

          Whether the capability was cut completely or just not installed and so potentially can be added, i am less clear on.

          • I think the UK & RN simply cannot afford to operate the QEs without SAMs. It’s a reckless lack or foresight.

  14. In 82 there were chaps on deck with Blowpipe. Any reason why they could not place a LML Starstreak detachment on these ships if need be.

    • This is the first mention of Starstreak. I have always thought the Thales Thor/MMS/RAPIDRanger with Starstreak (or Starstreak II) would make a pretty decent low cost CIWS. Perhaps there are technical reasons why this is not the case but there would be commonality benefits with the missile costs shared with the army. With low weight and small surface area so it could be fit to almost any vessel.

      • I was wondering about Starstreak. As discussed in comments for another article, LMM can apparently be fired from a Starstreak launcher which makes me wonder whether the opposite is true, can Starstreak be fired from an LMM launcher? If yes then might some evolution of the MSI Sigma mount for the 30mm be an option ( QEC already has 30mm mounts presumably with carefully-planned arcs of fire to avoid/minimise blind spots and the Sigma mount would add 7 missiles per mount.

        Then again, would Starstreak have much chance against missiles? it’s a hit to kill system and I think what is effectively a laser designator needs to be kept on the target throughout – a missile is a much smaller and I assume usually faster moving target than an aircraft.

        • I was thinking about this a bit more. We (with the us including Thales U.K. which admittedly is French) would seem to have the capability with Starstreak, LMM, 40mm CTAS, Thales RapidFire and an equivalent to MSI’s 30mm Sigma mount (and the 40mm CTAS is pretty much exactly the same size as the 30mm Bushmaster) to put together a pretty amazing CIWS system.

          An old ThinkDefence article ( goes into 40mm CTAS in some detail and towards the end when discussing Thales RapidFire says…

          “The RAPIDFire vehicle can be integrated with a number of air defence systems and uses the specialised air defence ammunition that contained 200 tungsten pellets. Rather than using a very high rate of fire, RAPIDFire is designed to fire fewer but more effective air bursting rounds at the target. It can carry 140 rounds in the turret, ready to fire. Effective range is claimed to be 4,000m and up to 6 vehicles can be integrated with a single control module for wide area coverage, including fire control for Starstreak/HVM missiles. An independent EO/IR sensor can also be used with detection ranges in excess of 18km.”

          They talk of a “vehicle” because it’s discussing a land-based system but I believe that a naval version has already been discussed. There is an anti-aerial airbust 200 tungsten pellet ammo option said to be good to 4km and the graphs of the penetrating effects vs range of the AP ammo vs 30mm is simply spectacular in terms of how much better it is which must bode well for the GP ammo nature as well. One problem is mention that the ammo is said to be “eye wateringly” expensive but perhaps ramping up volume with wider use might fix that. The remote units can switch between at least 2 ammo types and I think I saw mention of 3 somewhere in the article.

          Most of our RFAs have positions for 2 x 30mm plus 2 x Phalanx. An integrated system of 4 x 40mm non-penetrating Sigma-style mounts, or maybe only 2 of the 4 mounts being Sigma-style, could create a pretty spectacular CIWS setup. Either all mounts with anti-air and anti-surface (GP?) switchable or maybe 2 dedicated AA and 2 AS then in the all-Sigma version perhaps 2 mounts host Starstreak for AA out to over 7km (against aircraft not missiles) and the other 2 mounts host LMM for longer range strikes against fast attack craft or even pinpoint shots at bigger stuff.

          The development of a Sigma-style setup could also benefit things like River, Hunt & Sandown which have a single 30mm mount.

          And we have pretty much all this technology already in or going into service elsewhere so it’s just a matter of sticking it all together. What an export opportunity too.

          Is this a pipe dream? Over to you more knowledgeable people to inject some reality perhaps.

          • , but i often note, the lack of obvious mounting points for new systems, i think thedesign lacked enough sponson spaces like the ones where phalanx will be fitted


  15. Sea Ceptor should be fitted. We’re talking about ‘last resort’ defence, to be used when other means have failed. What’s a bit of FOD compared to a SSM hit? That would REALLY disrupt flight operations!
    Sea Ceptor could be the insurance policy that saves lives, and adding 32 to the forward starboard sponson (it would mean repositioning Phalanx) would seem to be relatively straightforward.


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