HMS Queen Elizabeth and RFA Tidespring recently met up with the Zumwalt class destroyer, USS Michael Monsoor.
— Royal Fleet Auxiliary (@RFAHeadquarters) November 12, 2018
Michael Monsoor is the second Zumwalt-class destroyer. The ship is 600 feet in length, with a beam of 80.7 feet (24.6 m) and displacing approximately 15,000 tons.
The Zumwalts were designed as multi-mission surface combatants tailored for advanced land attack and littoral dominance with a mission of providing credible, independent forward presence and deterrence and operating as integral parts of naval, joint or combined maritime forces. Their main guns are a pair of Advanced Gun Systems (AGS). Because the AGS is unusable due to issues with ammunition, they cannot provide naval gunfire support and their mission is now surface warfare.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently conducting part two of flying trials with F-35B jets. 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.